This experimental character study has great heart, utilizing a slow paced observant feel throughout.
Firstly go see Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, to some this will seem obvious however I’ve seen various other people claiming the viewer doesn’t need to have watched the two predecessors. Sure there’s no need but you miss out on all the character development built up and that after all is what this trilogy sets out to do.
Presuming you’ve watched the first two you will know how a young couple first met on a train crossing Europe. The seemingly naive American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) approaches the shy yet well spoken French girl Celine (Julie Delpy). Thus begins their conversation leading them to the streets of Vienna and the young love that follows. They had the young abandonment of strolling the streets and as the night progressed neither of them wanted to say goodbye. Prior to disbanding they agree to meet again in 6 months time leading us onto Before Sunset.
Nine years has passed since their first chance meeting in Vienna. Jesse is in Paris promoting his book tour when Celine visits him at one of his book shops. In comparison to the original they walk the streets of Paris with only a few hours before Jesse catches a plane. They discuss politics, life and most importantly whether they still love each other, even though Jesse is now married with a kid. This all concludes with both of them together leading onto Before Midnight.
The first two had a very open and care free approach mainly due to Jesse and Celine still being young. Now in Before Midnight we meet the couple together in Greece with twin girls of their own. The thorn in their lives is not only that they’ve aged bringing the responsibilities of parenthood but Jesse’s son living with his ex-wife in the US.
As I mentioned there’s an important difference in this third film, the couple now have a life together and children to care for. The large part of the film is spent on the couple heatedly conversing on their current life and the effect of Jesse having a son living far away. Whilst this is now a different kind of love being showcased, one of sacrifice and fleeting expense, the cinematography remains the same. Just like the first two we have long drawn out takes that simply follow the couple as they walk and converse. It’s refreshing as a viewer to simply allow the action on screen to do the work, in this case the study of Jesse and Celine. All of which is beautifully worked out by director Richard Linklater.
We are introduced to a few sub characters here as friends from Greece who have invited Jesse and Celine to visit the home of a prestigious writer. They are simply their to act as various incarnations of the couples love. We have Anna and Achilleas a young care free couple, reminding them of when they first met. However there is also Adriani and Stefanos a middle aged couple who still show signs of that love seemingly lost to Jesse and Celine. This all stirs the question around whether our couple are still in love and can they ever rediscover that time from Vienna.
I watched all of the trilogy in three consecutive days which no doubt played it’s part in my perception on the films. Given the wide expanse between them a lucky generation would of watched these films as they came out, which must of been great to follow the couple in the same time span.
There’s barely a genre I like more than a slow paced drama and even my skeptic self could not stop myself being drawn into the couples romance, even the beaten love in the latest tale. It’s not going too far to say that this is one of my favorite trilogies and who knows maybe we will see the couple once more.