Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, DTS HD 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 290 Minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Before Sunrise ***1/2
“I wish I'd meet you earlier. I really like talking to you.”
A love story so potent yet so simple in its approach, Before Sunrise is hands down one of the most intimate romantic films ever made, if not THE most. Writer/director Richard Linklater’s third feature is an ingeniously spontaneous account of young love. It, along with the two films that followed, is also a dynamic travelogue piece, as the real location settings lend great authenticity to the proceedings.
We open on a train bound for Paris, where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first meet. They strike up a conversation. Instantaneously, a mutual attraction is felt. He convinces her to accompany him around Vienna until he has to board a flight back to America the next day.
How rare is it to find a love story that is purely powered just by that of casual conversation? A traditional mainstream movie of this type would be more dependent on physical attraction and sex scenes. But Linklater, working outside the box as he was always known to do, lets Jesse and Celine talk and let the love for each other sink in slowly and more realistically as the day progresses.
Reality sets in, though, as the following day sets in, and the two have to go their separate ways. Linklater always envisioned Jesse and Celine reuniting some years down the road. Nine years later, such a reunion came to fruition.
Before Sunset ****
“What do you think were the chances of us ever meeting again?”
Now in their 30s, Jesse and Celine reunite in her native Paris. He has written a book detailing their first encounter. Jesse was hoping that Celine would pop back into his life while his book tour came to Paris, but wasn’t sure if she would. Sure enough, she greets him at a book store following a book signing event, and the two continue the same level of intimate conversation they engaged in nine years ago in Vienna.
Linklater’s follow up film to Before Sunrise, which for me is the strongest entry in the trilogy, gives us a reunion that feels even more authentic and effective than their initial encounter. Being able to surpass that is a feat that seemed borderline impossible. Having actors Hawke and Delpy write their own dialogue this time around, in addition an even more authentic real time feel to the story, is no doubt how this entry was able to pull that off.
Listening to Jesse and Celine reflecting on what all has happened since they parted ways, in addition discussing how their brief fling nine years ago has affected their lives since is nothing short of invigorating. Jesse is now a husband and a father, though he fully admits in his book that he wasn’t able to let go of the feelings he felt during that day in Vienna, and Celine doesn’t seem to have let go of what she felt. And history is about to repeat itself in that Jesse has a flight back to America in a few hours.
Though it doesn’t get brought up as much as The Godfather Part II or
Terminator 2, Before Sunset definitely belongs alongside them in the
superior sequel club.
Before Midnight ***1/2
“If you want love, then this is it. This is real life. It's not perfect but it's real.”
Progressing another nine years, Jesse and Celine are now married and living with successful jobs in Greece. They are also parents to twin daughters. It seems as though they have everything they wished for since they first met eight years ago.
However, this third chapter showcases something we didn’t want to see them experience, but what is inevitable in every marriage or relationship at some point. This something being the notion of a relationship slightly unraveling. Hawke and Delpy once again share screenwriting credit, thus making their every scene feel more and more real, be it lovely and romantic or uncomfortably intense.
They certainly bear more emotionally than in the previous two films. There is lengthy argument scene that escalates in perhaps the most realistic fashion I’ve ever seen in a single film. It perfectly illustrates that in spite of the beauty that is only seen when you start to love someone, that there is eventually moments of difficulty that are unavoidable.
So all that remains is...will we pick up with Jesse and Celine again in 2022? It’s uncertain at this point, but having been on this journey with them, I would certainly like to see at least one more chapter in their lives.
Criterion has showcased their unbeatable quality on all three films. Each of the film’s locations look as dynamically authentic as can be, making this the next best thing to actually traveling to Vienna, Paris and Greece. Color and overall image depth appears in pure superb form. There isn’t a false note in any of the three films, with Sunset especially appearing in amazing, vibrant form…making me want to visit Paris now more than ever!
Before Sunrise is supplied at DTS 2.0 mix, while the following two films get the 5.1 treatment. Although each film is first and foremost dialogue driven, each also provides superb ambient sounds emerging from the actual locations that Jesse and Celine find themselves in. Occasional music playback sounds terrific, in addition.
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this Criterion set, knowing that they would include top of the line extras to accompany each film.
On Before Sunrise, we get a much in depth, near forty five minute conversation piece titled “The Space In Between” with Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as well as an additional forty minute segment with film scholars Dave Johnson and Rob Stone, who discuss Linklater’s films in addition to making contrasts and comparisons between the three Before films. There is also a brief vintage behind the scenes featurette.
For Before Sunset, we are treated to a 90 minute documentary from PBS titled Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny, which chronicles the filmmaker’s career from Slacker all the way up to Boyhood. There’s also a video essay from Linklater titled “On Cinema and Time”, as well as another vintage behind the scenes featurette.
Before Midnight includes a commentary with Linklater, Hawke and Delpy, as well as “After Before”, a half hour documentary that was shot during the film’s production in Greece, and a segment from NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross featuring Linklater, Hawke and Delpy as they reflect on the trilogy.
The Before Trilogy showcases the love story in true, unconventional form. That’s why they will be cherished amongst film lovers who prefer honesty in romance films rather that the cornball sappy fare that dominates the genre. Richard Linkater’s intimate work can now be enjoyed in this wonderful package from Criterion, which will certainly go on record as one of the best packages of the year!