The cheesiest thing in romantic movies is often the montage sequence that shows the stars falling in love. They stroll through the park or along the shore, share a meal tête-à-tête, and though we see that they're totally absorbed in each other's conversation, we aren't ourselves given to know what they're saying. (Not that we'd be likely to hear it over the music.) Last year's Something's Gotta Give offers a classically bad example. How are we supposed to respond, what are our faces actually supposed to be doing, while Diane Keaton laughs and laughs at Jack Nicholson's jokes that we can't hear? The movie flashes the international symbol for "falling in love," a symbol without dimensions, because bare recognition is adequate to writer-director Nancy Meyers's purposes. Jack & Diane walk, talk, fall in love; you get the picture.
In his 1995 movie Before Sunrise writer-director Richard Linklater goes all the way in the other direction. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as college students Jesse and Céline meet on a train approaching Vienna and on an impulse get off and spend the evening together in the city. Linklater daringly follows them around all night as they talk and talk, flirt and have sex, and then part, promising to meet again in six months but otherwise exchanging no contact information. Linklater doesn't use conventional devices to push the romance, he lets the dialogue and the actors carry the entire burden. He doesn't even hint at whether they'll show up in six months, whether the night had a future.
Before Sunrise is an interesting experiment. Linklater's insistence on naturalistically replicating the two young people's experience of a single night is inherently in tension with the urgent romanticism of this kind of movie. (The kind you see in American movies from World War II, like The Clock (1945) in which Robert Walker as a soldier on leave meets Judy Garland in Penn Station and spends the day with her; the two bond so intensely they get married right away.) Linklater has called Before Sunrise a "romance for realists," which suggests that for him the movie is most alive in the tension between the naturalistic technique and the romantic effect.
I can respect him for going so far, saying, essentially, I'm not going to use movie tricks, I'm going to show you exactly what it would look, sound, and feel like for a young man and woman to click in this random way. But an experiment can be valuable without being successful, and I for one was not eagerly awaiting Before Sunset, which is a sequel to the first movie, set nine years later when Jesse is a novelist on a book tour talking up the fictional version of that earlier night that he has turned into a best seller, and Céline shows up, and they walk and talk in the brief time before his flight out of Paris. (In the Salon interview linked to above, Linklater jokes that Before Sunset is "the lowest-grossing film to ever spawn a sequel.")