Summer is a big sequel season at the movies. Some are rushing to see Fast and the Furious 6 (why?). Some, like my father, are chomping at the bit for Hangover Part III. For others it's Iron Man 3 (on my list, because, hello, Robert Downey, Jr.)
For me, however, the big must-see sequel of the summer, nay, the year, nay, the decade is... Richard Linklater's Before Midnight.
It's a cinematic journey that first graced our screens 18 years ago. American boy (Ethan Hawke, in his sexy, greasy haired heyday) meets French girl (Julie Delpy) on a train... they have only one night, meandering the streets of Vienna.
I was a teenager when Before Sunrise was released, in the mid-90s, just before slacker chic gave way to Clueless cute.
I felt fiercely independent, wise beyond my years, already nostalgic for my lost childhood. I vacillated between apathy and longing for appreciation.
There was poetry. So much poetry. Pretentious, embarrassing poetry.
In other words, I totally would have gotten off that train with Ethan Hawke.
(Disclaimer: I cannot in good faith advise young women to get off of trains with strange men, even if they do have sexy hair and flannel shirts).
When Celine and Jesse reunited in Paris nine years later (Before Sunset), the romance of wandering aimlessly had worn off, not entirely, but a bit, both for the characters and for me. I was just slightly older than they'd been in the first Before chapter, but like the characters in the 2004 incarnation, I was eager to figure it all out and get my shit together. There was room for moments of regret to begin seeping in.
(That was around the time I discovered that no one has it ALL figured out).
Fortunately, I wasn't saddled with a kid and a bad marriage like Hawke's Jesse, but we all have those moments of "how would my life be different if this ONE THING had happened or not happened," don't we? If you could go back in time, would you make the same mistakes all over again?
For the record, Before Sunset has one of the best cinematic endings I've ever seen.
Which brings us, nearly a decade later, to Before Midnight. It's the most realistic of the trilogy, brutally honest and in moments, just brutal.
Without spoiling too much, Before Midnight is about what happens when you get what you've always wanted. For anyone who's ever been in a relationship past the "seven year itch" phase, the lengthy scenes between Hawke and Delpy will ring very, very true.
Including, frankly, those moments you wish you could be 23 again. Just for a night.
Just until sunrise.