For those who like smart dialogue of the quality that usually is only found in fine literature, is there a greater trilogy than that of Richard Linklater’s series of Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013)? All three films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The nine year spacing of the films is simply perfect and shows, as true to life as ever done on film, the lovers as young, idealistic and carefree (Before Sunrise), to maturing and more cognizant of the reality of life (Before Sunset), to full middle age adulthood, with responsibilities and a bit of jading (Before Midnight). Just as one would expect in real life as one ages, gaining some wisdom and life experience, the dialogue in each subsequent film becomes more mature, deep, penetrating and thoughtful. Idealism is replaced by reality.
This is film at its best. Especially Before Sunset and Before Midnight, the dialogue is simply as good as it gets and rises to the level of literature (only Before Sunrise is a bit immature in dialogue, but again I expect as it would be in real life with characters of the age in the movie). There is no action, no erotic sex scenes, no stupid or trendy film tricks. Each film really only has a few scenes, such as in Before Midnight Hawke and Delpy talking in the car for probably 20 minutes or so while driving through Greece, followed by another 20 minutes or so at a small dinner party at a friends house in the countryside, followed by a 15 minute walk into town and most of the remainder of the film in a hotel. The camera disappears, really just providing the viewer an opportunity to walk and sit with the characters, silently listening in to their conversations on the meaning of life, love, being, time and a number of other topics. It really is amazing, as they walk you are there with them, as they talk, you think how much of what they say is what you would say. It simply resonates.
Hawke and Delpy shine in these movies, and just keep getting better. Their chemistry is remarkable. Their interactions and discussions come across as real, unrehearsed and natural. Only Before Midnight really has any supporting actors, and they all are superb. The dinner conversation, while outside on a stunningly beautiful patio on the Greek countryside, with three generations represented, is simply the kind of thoughtful, witty and humorous conversation that one dreams of having but rarely has. Food, wine and conversation — this is the epitome of how that is supposed to work!
Those under 30 probably would be bored, unless they have intellect beyond their years. Those over 60 may or may not relate any longer to the dialogue. Those 35-50 will be stunned at how good a movie such as Before Midnight can be (unless of course, one has no desire to contemplate). Whether you have seen Before Sunrise or Before Sunset or not, RUN to a theater showing Before Midnight (as the review in Time states, “If I were only allowed to see one movie this year, I’d want it to be Before Midnight. If I were only allowed two trips to a theater this year, I’d see it twice.”) It will be the most worthwhile film you will see this year, probably in many years. You do not need to see the first two films to understand or appreciate the third. Of course, for those with Apple TV (or some other similar device), it is well worth it to watch the first two purely to go into the latest film with a deeper understanding of the characters. My wife actually preferred to watch them newest to oldest, enjoying the reverse progression of the character’s maturity.
Here is a review from Buzzfeed calling it “Heartbreaking genius.” The Week, says “Before Midnight is the most important cinematic love story of all time”. The Telegraph calls it a “series that is gradually becoming one of the most remarkable in movie history.” One can find scores of reviews, universal in praise.
Going in reverse order, here is the trailer for Before Midnight:
Here is the trailer for Before Sunset:
Here is the trailer for Before Sunrise:
I for one am marking my calendar, and hoping beyond hope that Linklater, Hawke and Delpy create another few installments in 2022, 2031 and 2040!
Let me leave you with some quotes. One could pick out scores and scores across the three movies, here is just a sampling.
- I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.
- But not knowing is not so bad. The point is to be looking, searching, to stay hungry.
- You have to be a little deluded to be motivated.
- Women explore for eternity in the vast garden of sacrifice.
- I don’t know, I think that if I could just accept the fact that my life is supposed to be difficult. You know, that’s what to be expected, then I might not get so pissed-off about it and I’ll just be glad when something nice happens.
- Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.
- I like getting older … it feels more immediate, like I can appreciate things more.
- You know what’s the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you? Is when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with, and you realize that that is how little they’re thinking about you.
- You know what drives me crazy? All these people talking about how great technology is and how it saves all this time. But what good is saved time if nobody uses it? It just turns into more busy work, right? You never hear somebody say, ‘Well, with the time I’ve saved by using my Word Processor, I’m gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out.
- I guess when you’re young you you just believe there’s be many people with whom you connect … Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.