This is part one of a list of 10 travelogue film recommendations:
Whether you are stuck in the doldrums of another work week or enjoying some brief time off, we could all use some more time away. With that in mind, here’s a guide to a smattering of travelogue romances that’ll have you planning your next vacation.
The Before Trilogy
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Locations: Vienna, Paris, Greece
Whenever discussing romance films the first that comes to mind is Richard Linklater’s beloved trilogy that checks in on a couple at three different stages in their lives.
“Before Sunrise” (1995), introduces us to Jesse (Ethan Hawke), a young American man who meets Celine (Julie Delpy), a young French woman, while traveling in Europe. The two end up spending one night together connecting on a deep level before having to separate for what could be forever.
“Before Sunset” (2004) picks up nine years later as Jesse finally meets up with Celine again while doing a book tour in France. They decide to hangout until he inevitably has to catch his flight back to New York.
“Before Midnight” (2013) again revisits Jesse and Celine nine years later. This time, instead of being a young spontaneous couple, they’re an aging married couple with kids and they’re struggling with questions about their life decisions.
These films, particularly “Before Sunrise,” are some of the most influential romance films ever made. They’re essential viewing for any film lover. It doesn’t hurt that they take the audience all over Europe either.
Directed by: Roger Michell
Every time I see Roger Michell’s Le Week-End I imagine it as the eventual 4th Before film in Linklater’s beloved series. However, rather than a young couple meeting for the first time, or meeting up again years later, or even dealing with middle-aged marital strife, Le Week-End deals with an aging British couple revisiting Paris, where they honeymooned, on their 30th wedding anniversary. It is, for them, a method of trying to recapture the magic before things fall apart completely. It’s a charming, sophisticated portrayal of the struggles of long term marriage after the kids have grown up and the careers are coming to a close. The writing here is terrific and Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are as funny as they are prickly. They give the film a bitter-sweet energy that never feels off the mark.
It doesn’t hurt that there are some great views of Paris and Jeff Goldblum is on hand in a humorous side character role. Also of note for the true cinephiles out there, Broadbent, Duncan and Goldblum recreate the famous dance scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 film Bande à Part (the film Quentin Tarantino named his production company after).
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
If Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” is the best travelogue romance of all time, “Lost in Translation” runs it a close second. No matter how many times I see this movie I still love it.
It’s not a romance in the conventional sense. It’s about two Americans feeling lost and alone in a big foreign city until they find each other and connect through conversations about their marriages, happiness, sadness and the meaning of it all.
Bill Murray’s understated performance as an actor past his prime is likely the best of his career – even if some of his ad-libbed culture clash riffing hasn’t aged particularly well. Scarlett Johansson plays a young 20-something just out of college and unsure of what to do with her life. He offers her aged wisdom and she offers him needed youthful spontaneity.
The remarkable discovery here is just how much overlap there can be between a midlife crisis and that feeling we all go through in our 20’s wanting more freedom and adventure before settling into adult life.
It also features one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time. Tokyo’s beautiful nighttime cityscapes add a lot to the atmosphere as well.
Directed by: Emily Ting
Location: Hong Kong
“Already Tomorrow” is an indie travelogue, walk and talk romance heavily inspired by Linklater’s “Before” series – director Emily Ting even pays homage to “Before Sunrise” with a fortune teller scene. However, instead of two young adults connecting on an intellectual level, Ting’s couple bond on a cultural level. As a result, there’s a hint of “Lost in Translation” in the mix as well, as two Americans abroad spend the one night they have together finding familiarity in each other despite being in a foreign land.
However, lest it sound too unoriginal, the film does earn back some points for the way it goes about discussing cultural differences. It shows a side of westerners living in an Asian country that many familiar with the culture clash will identify with.
It doesn’t hurt that there are some spectacular views of one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Ting often lets the film feel a bit like a tourist’s guide to seeing Hong Kong’s most iconic places, and that’s not a bad thing.
Streaming on Amazon Prime
Directed by: Chris Evans
Location: New York
Captain America himself, Chris Evans, made his directorial debut with “Before We Go.”
It’s a film that, much like “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,” borrows heavily from Linklater’s “Before” series – complete with it’s own take on the fortune teller scene (because apparently you can’t make one of these without it). However, there’s even more “Lost in Translation” in the mix here, though not because it’s about westerners in a foreign land. This film takes place in New York. However, there is a scene in which the characters wait out the night in a cramped hotel room while wearing bathrobes and sharing thoughtful discussion. The story here (by Ron Bass and Jen Smolka) even ends in a similar fashion leaving us in the dark about the contents of their final interaction.
Streaming on Netflix
Share your favorite travelogue films in the comments!