Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight

Friday, June 21, 2013



I can't remember the first time I saw Before Sunrise, but I remember loving it. I remember being carried away by the story of two individuals whose paths cross unexpectedly. I remember traveling through Europe on trains around that same time and so that made the whole movie more exciting. The movie introduces us to Jesse, an American, and Celine, a French girl. Both are in their early 20s and they meet randomly on a train headed to Vienna. They spend less than 24 hours walking around the city and talking. Sounds simple enough but there is something magical about their chemistry and dialogue.

Years later I saw Before Sunset when it came out. It’s nine years later in the characters’ lives and nine years later in real time as well. The two characters are now grownups dealing with the realities of life and yet they could still lose themselves in a single day together. I won’t give anything about the plot away, but it’s about as perfect as a sequel could possibly be.

Now another nine years has passed and we’ve received another segment in their story. Before Midnight is a completely different beast. Jesse and Celine are no longer wandering around with romantic versions of themselves. In the past two movies they spent less than a day together and so they could afford to share only glimpses of themselves. Now they’re together and have been for years. They’re raising children together, dealing with the realities of jobs and stress and fidelity. The mystery is gone and that makes for a very different movie.

There's more fighting but there is also more depth to their relationship. There are more conversation with other adults instead of just between the two main characters. There’s one scene I particularly loved. A group of eight adults is having dinner together and one thing they discuss is how romantic relationships have changed over the years. They discuss the shift in relationships that has happened with the progression of technology and shifts in gender roles. We see everything from a young couple newly in love to a widow grieving decades of life with her husband. It's beautifully done and the dialogue is fascinating. It is a conversation I wish I could have been part of.

For me that is the reason these movies have been so memorable. They give us opinions from different points of view. They cover a wide range of topics and Jesse and Celine wander about in a city and just talk. They show us what happens when people meet who don't necessarily share all the same beliefs. They are films that offer up a continuous and intelligent conversation. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that there have been three movies made in this series even though they make almost no money. They are gems in a sea of action flicks with little to no plot.

Rent Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and see Before Midnight while you can!

15 comments:

The Indiscriminate Critic said...

The "milkshake" poem from Before Sunrise has to be one of my favourite movie scenes ever. It is so quietly momentous, so piercingly honest, so...perfect. I love hearing that other people are as taken with these movies as I have been. Thanks for the warm memories and smiles. It certainly makes for a happy Friday!

Ana @ things mean a lot said...

Word can't express my love for these films. I'm watching Before Midnight tomorrow, so saving your review tor read after that. I can't wait!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I love these movies so much! They are the DEFINITION of romantic. They have such chemistry on screen. OMG, the ending of that second one! I had to watch it several times, it was just so perfect. I haven't seen the latest one (not even sure if it is playing here but even if it was, I'd be the only one who would want to see it).

JoAnn said...

I just put Before Sunrise at the top of my Netflix queue - thanks!

Jason C. said...

YES! These are my favorite movies of all time time and while I was skeptical about a third film to cap off a trilogy, it took about 10 seconds into it to realize that Linklater and company had managed to create another masterpiece.

I like the way you described
Before Midnight as a "different beast" because even though it still maintains a similar style to the previous two, the tone is a lot more serious and more is at stake for Jesse and Cline. Sure, there is plenty of humor to be found as well but its amazing how these characters have grown over the years and now have to deal with more important life stuff. That long scene in the hotel room...wow. So intense.

Do you think there will be a fourth film in the series? Perhaps they will call it "Before Dawn"? hahaha

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

The Indiscriminate Critic - I love that scene too! How they react is so telling about their personalities. I rewatched the first two before seeing the final one and it was such a treat.

Ana - I hope you love it! It's different from the first two, but it would be completely unrealistic if it wasn't.

Sandy - Baby, you are gonna miss that plane! :)

JoAnn - Enjoy!

Jason C. - So intense! I could see them doing another film every nine years for as long as they are all around. Every stage of life brings new challenges and shifts in relationship and it seems like there are endless possibilities of struggles to show and conversations to have. I would love to see them puttering along and talking about theories on life in their 70s.

nomadreader said...

Hooray for kindred film spirits! I loved Before Midnight, but it took me a few days to process all of the feelings. It's a beautiful film, but it's heartbreak is on an entirely different level.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

nomadreader - I feel like I'm still processing it. It was so much to take in, but so is life!

Nikki Steele @ BookPairing.com said...

Aww I've never even heard of these movies before! Why has that happened?! They sound so lovely. Will have to check them out.

Brona Joy said...

I didn't know there was a third movie!! You've just made my day :-)

Thanks.

Brooke said...

It comes as no shock to me that so many fellow book bloggers adore these movies - I do as well. My best friend and I grew up watching and rewatching Before Sunrise until we broke the VHS. We've done the same thing with Before Sunset, and now we've both agreed that Before Midnight is one hell of a movie.

Kat @ NoPageLeftBehind said...

Oh whoa! I didn't even hear about Before Midnight but I loved the other two. Must go see the latest installment ASAP!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - I hope you watch them soon, so good and unlike anything else I've really seen.

Brona - Good! I don't think movies like this get enough press.

Brooke - I love seeing these characters age and grow. It's such a unique trilogy.

Kat - Definitely go see it soon!

Bittner said...

I loved these first two movies and I was so excited to see that another one was coming out! I haven't gotten to see it yet but I'm glad to hear that you liked it

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bittner - I hope you get a chance to see it! The people who have seen the "Before" movies seem to love all of them. Everyone else just hasn't heard about them yet!