Review: Before Sunrise / Sunset / Midnight (1995-2013)

Before Sunset (2004) Before Sunset (2004)

A video essay retrospective on The Before Trilogy.

Normally, I don’t post other people’s reviews – but my thoughts on and feelings about what I guess is now referred to as The Before Trilogy are more positive than they might sound were I to sit and write about the three films.

My first time watching each film, I found myself, if not exactly swept up in the romance, certainly pulled along in the wandering and rambling (in all senses of these words) of Jesse (Ethan Hawke), CĂ©line (Julie Delpy), and the direction (Richard Linklater), all of whom also wrote the script – waiting to see where things would go, realising they already are going, and understanding that while so much rests on the viewer liking these three (each of the two lovers, and the just being with them), finding that out is the three kind of already winning you over.

Each film is a moment, perhaps to be swept up in only to then to leave behind with a bittersweet memory and out-of-focus thoughts on what it all meant, if anything at all

Having watched each installment roughly in real time (Before Sunrise in 1995, Before Sunset in 2004, and Before Midnight in 2013), I wasn’t feeling particularly up to revisiting at least two of the three (I remember finding Before Sunset most engaging, perhaps mainly for the very start and the very end). As with 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood, I often find Linklater’s films more impressive as concepts than wholly satisfying as viewing experiences.

Luckily, A Darkroom of Illiterates offers a handy retrospective on the events, themes and significance of The Before Trilogy. As the title implies, the films are revisited collectively as a portrait of a relationship as it grows and evolves, as the people in it do – and the films are reflected upon with the same kind of feeling and poignance that I’m sure I felt, or I’m sure I remember feeling, when first watching each of them. And that is, I think, if not the point of the series, then at least appropriate: each film is a moment to be swept up in, to touch upon, then to leave behind with a bittersweet memory and out-of-focus thoughts on what it all meant, if anything at all:

Further Viewing

Of course, Lessons from the Screenplay sees structure where others (like me) see only meandering (that’s not entirely true or fair – I’m simply letting my words wander…):

In Thomas Flight‘s response to the question, Is “Show, Don’t Tell” Bad Advice? – Before Sunrise is used as a case study to make the important distinction between dialogue “revealing something through subtext… [versus] explicitly stating it”: