For Your Consideration
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Just to forewarn you all, there will be some spoilers up ahead.
There are a bunch of really good to great trilogies out there. The Godfather is a famous one, so is the Back to the Future films, Lord of the Rings. And they all have their fans. But I am going to throw my hat in the ring for a series of three films that was generally overlooked by the major movie going audience in their initial releases. They are “The Before Films” directed by Richard Linklater who also co-wrote the films with the two leads, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, and screenwriter Kim Krizan.
The films follow the burgeoning romance between Jesse and Celine set against some of the most romantic and fantastic backdrops in all of Europe; Vienna, Paris and the South Peloponnese in Greece. The first film in the series is called “Before Sunrise” Ethan Hawke plays Jesse and Celine is played by Julie Delpy. Jesse is on his way from Budapest to Vienna to catch a flight home to the Unites States. Celine is leaving Budapest returning home to Paris after visiting her grandmother. Jesse strikes up a conversation with Celine on the train and after having lunch together he asks her to get off in Vienna to spend the day with him before he leaves for home. She agrees and the story is on its way.
Linklater had gotten the idea after a chance encounter with a women he met in a toy shop. They walked and talked into the night and inspiration took flight. Linklater wrote the screenplay and originally it was to take place on a train ride to San Antonio. But as the script was taking shape he needed to find a strong woman's voice and brought on Kim Krizan to contribute to the screenplay. To make the journey a little bit more on the romantic side they placed the story in Europe.
“Before Sunrise” captures a fantastical moment in two peoples lives that I would think most people would love to emulate as their own. Celine delivers one of my favorite lines in any movie I have ever heard, “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.” These two are getting to know each other in an honest way, opening up to each other over the course of a night strolling the streets of Vienna. And as the film is set to end, they are back at the train station. They make plans to meet again in 6 months and go their separate ways. "That's how it ends? What happens"?
If they had never done another film this may have been one of the greatest movie ending “What happened?!? moments. On the other hand, not doing a sequel they may have done a disservice not only to the audience but to the characters in the movie. But making a sequel is a dangerous proposition, and how do you get to make a sequel when the first film didn't exactly light up the box office. So, how do you go forward and not fuck everything up in a sequel? Simple, you wait ten years to make the next one.
Whether waiting ten years to make the sequel was planned that way or not the trio had talked about making one during the closing days of shooting the first film. “Before Sunset” takes place in Paris ten years after the first film. Jesse is on the last stop of a book tour and while taking some questions from a few journalists about his book he glances towards the back of the book store and sees Celine waiting for him.
Jesse has a flight to catch in a few hours but wants to spend some time with Celine before he leaves. The film takes place in real time which runs about 80 minutes. They find themselves strolling through the streets of Paris, stop for coffee at a cafe, stroll through a park, talking about themselves and what they have been up to. Basically looking to see if they still feel the same way they felt ten years earlier in Vienna. We also find out that one of them showed up in Vienna; the other could not. But the situation is a lot more complicated than it was a decade earlier. Jesse is married with a son. What I love about this movie is the ease to which the characters have picking up essentially where they left off. Jesse and Celine have no problem talking to each other and getting to know more about each other and that's how you know you are in for a wonderful movie experience.
The film received rave reviews, it was on many top ten lists, made some money at the box office. But it also begged the same question; sequel? The first two films are great movies, so how do you top or at least make a film on par with them? Wait another ten years. Each film finds the couple at points in their lives where you would expect them to be if you were following them in real time which was also key in the way the script was fleshed out between the trio. Which brings us to “Before Midnight”.
“Before Midnight” finds the couple in the south Peloponnese in Greece. Jesse now has two successful books and is on a writers retreat with his now wife Celine and their twin daughters. The opening of the film finds Jesse at the airport saying goodbye to his son, Hank, from his first marriage. Jesse and Hank are making plans for Jesse to see his son in Chicago but it gets complicated due to his arrangement with his ex wife and Celine not wanting to upend her family from Paris to Chicago. Hank boards the plane and is off back to the States while Jesse, Celine and the twins head back to the writers retreat and we are off in the third installment.
I won't divulge any more info into the series as I hope you all seek it out if you haven't already. These films are for a movie going audience that are looking for what many people would say today as a throwback to another era. Watching a couple over the course of twenty years and three movies change and grow in front of our eyes is truly wonderful. I hear people all the time complain that there aren't any good movies out there. There are plenty, all you have to do is open your eyes and pick something you probably wouldn't in the first place. Here are three right here.
...and please don't let an algorithm pick a movie for you either. Please!
-- Angelo Alexopoulos