I have now seen all three of these movies, and they are charming and will have a special place in my heart.
Here's what I wrote to my sister about the middle one--"Before Sunset:"
Yup. This one is even better.[Than the first one.]
I liked the setting of Paris, and Julie Delpy looks thinner and a bit older but also wiser and still elegant and lovely. I would totally miss my plane for her. Ethan Hawke is the least attractive of the three movies. She's a better actor than he is, but his moment where he reveals the emptiness of his marriage was moving and was really the heart of that film for me.
But Jesse doesn't actually hold up over the course of the movie, so I have to assume that she was really positively affected by reading the novel. And, of course, as the middle section of a trilogy, it's got some lovely themes that get revisited. There's the whole question of what sort of parents they are or want to be, the question of missed lives--if only she had been in Vienna, they might have been together all these years. You see the pull Jesse is going to have to feel between his son and his own happiness.
When you saw this one back in '04, without the third one--did you think Jesse was shallow? I mean, despite his moving monologue about "I would suffer any torture in order to be with him every day of his life" (he said about his son)--but then it's not entirely surprising that he moves to Paris to be with Celine and leaves his son behind with his psycho ex-wife. Maybe it's because I know the next chapter that I'm biased against him.
I did like it, though. Quite a lot. I kind of want to take some time, and then watch all three of them right in a row--or maybe read the screenplays, just to see the progression--especially of Celine. Her progression from naive girl from the first one, to the bitter woman who feels she is missing life in the third one--it's a nuanced arc and Delpy is marvelous at playing it.
I'm a little bit skeptical at the "One True Love/ All My Romance was bound up in That One Night" story. I really don't believe that Cleine was so enamored of Jesse that the night in Vienna ruined all her subsequent relationships. . .I do think it was a high point of their lives, and maybe they are better suited to each other than to the people they are with, and they seem very happy and vivid with each other. And that is enough--it doesn't have to be their destiny.
In fact, if it isn't "DESTINY"--that makes the fragility of the relationship in the third one more poignant. They chose to be together, and they might choose to separate as a result of that epic fight. But then, Jesse makes that huge effort to reconcile at the restaurant at the end, and so they beat on, boats against the current.
These are going to have a special place in my heart. I'm glad you got me into them. Thanks.