‘Before Sunrise’ (1995), ‘Before Sunset’ (2004) and ‘Before Midnight’ (2013)

“I’m happy you’re saying that, because… I mean, I always feel like a freak, because I’m never able to move on like… this! You know. People just have an affair, or even entire relationships… they break up and they forget! They move on like they would have changed brand of cereals! I feel I was never able to forget anyone I’ve been with. Because each person have… their own, specific qualities. You can never replace anyone. What is lost is lost. Each relationship, when it ends, really damages me. I never fully recover. That’s why I’m very careful with getting involved, because… It hurts too much! Even getting laid! I actually don’t do that… I will miss on the other person the most mundane things. Like I’m obsessed with little things. Maybe I’m crazy, but… when I was a little girl, my mom told me that I was always late to school. One day she followed me to see why. I was looking at chestnuts falling from the trees, rolling on the sidewalk, or… ants crossing the road, the way a leaf casts a shadow on a tree trunk… Little things. I think it’s the same with people. I see in them little details, so specific to each of them, that move me, and that I miss, and… will always miss. You can never replace anyone, because everyone is made of such beautiful specific details. Like I remember the way, your beard has a bit of red in it. And how the sun was making it glow, that… that morning, right before you left. I remember that, and… I missed it! I’m really crazy, right?”

‘Before Sunrise’, ‘Before Sunset’ and ‘Before Midnight’, a trilogy of films directed by Richard Linklater in 1995, 2004 and 2013, are romantic comedies that follow the first meeting, the parting and the final reconciliation of Jesse and Céline, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. They first meet in ‘Before Sunrise’ on a train in Austria, Jesse persuades Céline to impulsively leave the train with him in Vienna and the pair spend the night wandering the city, talking about their perspectives on life and falling in love. When they part they agree to meet again in a year, but nine years later when Céline tracks Jesse down in Paris in ‘Before Sunset’ it transpires that she didn’t show up. In the second film they walk through Paris and discuss the nine missing years in which Céline has had unsuccessful relationships and Jesse has married. In the third film it is revealed that their Paris liaison lead to them getting together. The pair are now a couple with twin daughters and holidaying in Greece, but Jesse is missing his son with his first wife who is in America and Céline is wobbling with her career and her affection for him. The three films are understated and minimalist but at the same time intensely focused on these two characters. The exciting thing about the trilogy, much as with Linklater’s experimental masterpiece ‘Boyhood’, is the way they are conceived. Through the three you get a sense not only of following the couple through almost twenty years, but also, through their conversations, a kind of universal significance. Jesse and Céline’s interests and anxieties are expressions of their generation, and the way the three films are made and the consistency Linklater, Hawke and Delpy employ when filming them, mean that the films feel like you have developed a real relationship with the characters that has a significance beyond most movies.

Would I recommend them? Yes – they’re transcendent movies. The characters aren’t always likeable but they are always engaging and real. Watching the movies, regardless of your age, you find something to empathise with. Watch in a double bill with ‘Boyhood’ for a sense of how Linklater is stretching the limits of what movies are capable of.


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