Richard Linklater, Director and Writer of ‘Boyhood’, ‘Dazed and Confused’, and recently, ‘Everybody wants some’ is often recognized as a modern Philosopher in Cinema. Using such films as ‘Waking Life’ and ‘Before Sunset’ to raise moral question. Linklater, for all intents and purposes, is a thinking man’s filmmaker. Splicing each of his projects with open-ended questions about the meaning of life and death, the intricacies of relationships, free will, dreams, and reality. Posing such questions and allowing his characters a voice (in attempting to answer them) does more than just create lovable characters who feel more humanized and therefore create a better connection with the viewer. As evident in his ‘Before…’ Trilogy of movies, covering philosophy between two characters as a means of getting to know each other creates genuine chemistry. In ‘Before Sunrise’, ‘Before Sunset’, and ‘Before Midnight’, you can see before you, two young adults speaking the truths of their time in an effort to touch one another. They grow together over the course of a day and night, an afternoon into the evening, and another day and night respectively.
Meet Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), two confused young minds of the 90’s. Both in their early 20’s. Both very similar. Jesse is American and Celine is French. Jesse and Celine meet on a train and instantly strike up conversation. Right away they begin with expectations and what it is to be doing something you want in life, Jesse describes his first experience dealing with Death and Celine talk about her intense fear of dying.
After Jesse convinces Celine to spend the day with him walking around in Vienna, the journey begins. Jesse and Celine begin their adventure by meeting some locals, sharing a bus ride and talking about their first sexual feelings towards another person, and the moment that to me, epitomizes the film. Jesse and Celine squeeze into the close quarters of a listening booth at a record store and share a very beautiful 3 minutes staring at each other and then looking away. Afterwards the duo walk and talk about the value of religion as it relates to them and in their life experience, those they’ve witnessed. Jesse and Celine share their first kiss.
During an intense match of pinball, Celine recalls the demise of her last relationship and Jesse confesses that he originally came to Europe to surprise his former girlfriend. The two open up and share the defining moment of the film, by talking about what it is to need someone and how moving on from being in love with another can effect you.
Jesse and Celine share some snacks and get their palms read. The two then delve into fate, and how the palm-reader makes her money by being vague and that everyone wants to be told good things but not the truth about themselves. The two walk some more and talk about aging, the role of women and men in relationships and in the world, and are met by a poet who offers to write them a poem inserting any 1 word of their choice. Celine decides on milkshake. After the poet recites this lovely poem they pay him and are on their way. Jesse, a fellow writer believes that the poem was pre-written and the word milkshake added, Celine doesn’t seem to care either way. And that moment captures the dynamic of Jesse and Celine for the two films to come.
Jesse and Celine share a wonderful dinner, they find some wine and go to the park to spend the night together. Laying down, they discuss expectations and the prospect of sleeping together before they part in the morning. Ultimately, they share a very passionate night together. Morning has come and it’s time to part, but not before sharing a dance on the street side and agreeing that corresponding from France to America would only do harm to the connection that they’ve made over the years. Jesse and Celine, having covered a multitude of philosophical questions over the course of a day have obviously fallen in love. The two agree to meet at the train station 6 months to the day they met.’Before Sunrise’ is one of the most romantic film of all time. And I attribute that to Jesse and Celine’s genuine connection via the deep conversations they shared. No reservations.
9 years later, we catch up with Jesse, who’s just written a best seller, recounting the events that took place in ‘Before Sunrise’. Much to his surprise, Celine shows up to his book signing. Jesse and Celine catch up and have time for coffee before Jesse has to head back to the States. The two talk about their careers, their love life, and Jesse’s son. Celine talks about how she feels seeing families and people in long term commitments as it relates to her inability to stay happy. Jesse and Celine talk about how life goes on and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, the intimate evening of the night they met, and how Jesse is very unhappy in his marriage. It becomes evident that Celine has been unhappy because of her missed opportunity with Jesse. Celine bursts out and decides she needs to go home, the intense vulnerability that Jesse makes her feel is getting to her. Jesse charms his way into walking her home and the two end up in her apartment.
Jesse and Celine at this point have discussed fate, growing old, their missed connection, careers and hopes, and following in the footsteps of ‘Sunrise’, ‘Before Sunset’ ends every open-ended. Celine sings Jesse a song she wrote about him and the two share a moment.
Celine: ‘You are going to miss your plane’.
Jesse: ‘I know’
We pick up 9 years from the events of ‘Before Sunset’, so 18 from the day they met. Jesse and Celine reside in France but are on vacation in Greece. The two have 8-year-old twin daughters and appear to be very happy. Now this film is my favorite because the same conversations Celine and Jesse share often coincide with those of the original film. Jesse and Celine talk about their roles as parents and careers, they share a great conversation with the hosts of their vacation. At the Dinner table all ages are represented. There are 20 year old lovers (who very nearly resemble the relationship of Celine and Jesse from Before Sunrise), another couple in their 40’s (who appear to have a similar dynamic to Jesse and Celine in present time), and an Elderly man and woman who aren’t lovers but friends, whose spouses have passed (which gives the table discussion of love, passion, family, and sex a completed sense of perception).
The elderly female widow speaks about what it is to miss your loved one, and how it feels when you start to forget them, and their mannerisms. She concludes, ‘We are so important to some, but we are just passing through’. Jesse raises a glass, “to passing through”. A very deep and profound moment of understanding that spans generation of lovers.
Jesse and Celine share a very long walk and pick up many conversations from the course of each film. Aging, death, being together for a long time and how that can create resentment. In ‘Before Sunrise’, Celine asks Jesse what the first thing about her he would get tired of was. Again, 18 years later, Celine asks what thing about her he would want to change.
Over the course of this conversation, you can get the feel of mirroring from the original films and a true sense that these lovers have become close from the intimate conversations they’ve shared over their time together. At the Hotel, Jesse and Celine wind up arguing and you can see a real dark side to the two of them that sets this film apart from the others. Being in love isn’t always pretty and it appears their marriage is in danger. Again, they argue about aging, the resentment of being with someone for years, the sacrifices some people are willing to make for love, and how feeling free can be hard. Celine tells Jesse that she no longer loves him and exits the room.
Jesse meets her out on the beach at a table and begins to try to charm his way back into her good graces. To no success. The films defining moment comes at the very end, Jesse (very tired and upset) tells Celine that he’s trying, that he’s always fought for her love and that it isn’t always pretty. That love sucks sometimes. And that giving up is the worst choice for two people who love each other the way they do. She smiles, they share a joke.
Jesse and Celine’s relationship over the course of 18 years can be defined by the moments in which they share deep truths. truths that you can’t find in most films (especially romance). The ‘Before…” Trilogy is compiled of hours of Jesse and Celine either sitting or walking and talking. And occasionally you get to see them together as they relate to the world. Richard Linklater knows Romance better than we think, and he shows us the truest depiction of love through his philosophical writing.