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The Before Trilogy Retro Talk


Welcome to a very special edition of Retro Talk! Why is it special?! Because we’ll be discussing a film trilogy, as we cover Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy! The trilogy has started from 1995 to 2013, as each film is continued nine years after release, with Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013). The budget for all three films totaled at 8.2 million, as all three films grossed totaling at 44.8 million, bringing in a profit of 36.6 million... Very nice for an independent film trilogy! Each film has been heavily praised by critics and audience, as the trilogy went on to receive two Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.


When you think of Trilogy in film what’s the first thing you think of?! A grand skeptical through the course of three films. Majority of trilogies in film comes mainly from the Action/Adventure genre, as most trilogies are meant to be thrilling and exciting. Great examples of great trilogies come from Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, and the Cesar Trilogy (Planet of the Apes)! It’s not often Trilogies transition to another genre that isn’t impacted by adventure. For the Drama genre we’ve experience The Godfather trilogy, for animation we’ve experience the Toy Story trilogy and Cars... God Forbid Cars got a damn trilogy. Heck regarding the Comedy genre we’ve experience the Austin Powers Trilogy. So yes trilogies can happen in any genre, but when it comes from outside the Action/Adventure genre... It rarely ever happens. When it comes to making a trilogy in the Romance genre, why is it much difficult than the rest?!


When it comes to the Romance genre in film, often times the first great romance film is only great the first time around, as the sequel is not even comparable. Great examples would be My Girl and Grease. Why is it extremely difficult for a romance film, to be equally as good as the first?! I believe it’s due to the fact romance films have a difficult time in recreating the magic of romance, once they set in stone the first time around. It’s extremely difficult in the Romance genre because if there’s nothing left to say, to elevate both romantic interests in your story, then quite honestly what is the point? The fact that Richard Linklater was able to create a Romantic trilogy, in which each film is not only great, but each film still has a moral purpose in existing and has something more to say, is one of the greatest achievement in cinema. So let’s take a look at each entry of trilogy, as we throughly discuss each film of the series.


Before Sunrise Grade: A-

Our romance journey begins on a train, as we meet our characters Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke). Celine was a sweetheart from Paris, as Jesse was a handsome ole chap from America whom was a goofball filled with charisma. Celine’s peace is interrupted, as she encounters loud and obnoxious passengers. She moves to another seat on a train, near Jesse. The term “Love at First Sight” gets tossed around ever so often, but when Jesse first lays eyes on Celine, he waits no time as he introduces himself to Celine. The two get acquainted as they moved towards the front of the train, where they partake in something to drink. They partake in a long conversation, where the conversation isn’t just regular small talk we’ve to come to know in today’s world, but actual meaningful conversation regarding personal interests. As the train makes it’s stop, it was time for Jesse to depart and Celine to continue on back at home. What makes Jesse’s interaction with Celine rather different, than previous encounters with women in the past, it’s due to the fact there’s more to Celine than just a pretty face.

When it comes to love: Attraction towards one’s personal appearance covers about forty percent. The other sixty percent comes from Personality. More than often one will not pursue in a significant other, if one offers nothing more than just good looks. If one’s mind is not elevated to new heights from another person, then what’s the point in pursuing romance with that person?! With Jesse’s encounter with Celine, his heart yearns for more time with Celine, as he wants to learn more behind the pretty face. It’s due to the fact conversations between the two have flown so smoothly with each other, as Jesse experiences a deep connection he never thought he could possibly have with a woman. When you want to learn more about a person, as well wanting a experience out of a person... That’s when you know True Love is kicking in.

So Jesse comes up with an insane crazy idea. He offers Celine to skip her train ride back home and experience a full day with Jesse in this cute little town, before he goes back home the next day. It’s simply due to the fact Jesse wants to keep talking with her, as he feels a connection between them. The way Jesse asked out Celine, can feel reminiscent to anyone whomever has ever had to asked someone out. It feels like a crazy idea at first, as your approaching outside of your comfort zone. It’s a lovely gesture, yet can appear extremely awkward due to fear of rejection. Love can only prevent itself if you choose to not put in any action, as you have to put in the slightest risk into making things happen, as the worst thing she can possibly do is say no. Though the idea seemed out of the ordinary for Celine, she accepts Jesse’s offer as she ditch the train ride home to spend the day with him.

From then on you’re presented a lovely experience, followed by fantastic writing as the interactions between the two fascinate not only the romantic partners taken place in this story, but as well as the audience. What makes Before Sunrise the best film of the entire trilogy, is the fact it offers an experience. When you watch these characters explore the little town in front of them, the places they go though may not appear as extravagant, but their lovely little places that captures ones eye. Whether it’s one a random bus, a record shop, a cemetery, a park, a small country bar featuring a lounge singer, or heck an area which holds pinball machine... Each scenery just compliments the simple yet extraordinary experience these significant others are having.

Speaking of experience, how about their random encounters with other people of this town?! Simple random encounters, yet interesting figures that fit into the experience these two are having in this town. The two random gentlemen, whom offered Celine and Jesse to come watch their play (I’m pissed they didn’t go), the palm reader, and of course one of my favorite scenes in which they encounter a poet... Each encounter with these strangers is completely random, yet caters towards the experience.

The core to this films story, is simply within the interactions with Celine and Jesse. The film offers a thin plot, in which two meet on a train and then spent the day together... That’s it. How can one make a fascinating story, without much happening?! Simple: You write fantastic dialogue, in which the audience can follow along as they can relate or be intrigued in which they’re talking about. While we’re learning about Celine and Jesse’s lives, the conversations also fit in the times in which these characters are currently in. Conversations about love, sex, politics, social commentary, and much more. They may not agree on every view, but one can understand why one thinks the way they do, as they explore a deeper sense in the subject of matter their discussing.

When I think of Jesse and Celine, I think of how human beings should be interacting with each other, as they one can feel appealing. Compared to today’s culture, where everyone has to agree with everyone’s point of view, or else you can’t get along nor can have a conversation... It honestly makes human beings rather boring nor not worth getting invested in. A world in which people have to think exactly the same, who the hell wants to live in a world like that?! Sounds completely dreadful, why can’t we just accept each other like these two do, as we explore a great conversation?!

As it was time for Jesse to go back home, it was then time to depart from Celine. The day they had was truly unforgettable, as not a minute nor second was wasted between the two, as this is what it’s meant to be in Love at First Sight. Jesse nor Celine don’t want to let one go, as they want to spend more time together. Instead of catering into the cliche, of exchanging numbers or addresses so one can write or call each other, they instead made a vow to meet back at this town six months for now. Even though Celine and Jesse explain why they didn’t want to exchange numbers/addresses, as one doesn’t want to feel obligated to call or write as they fear they get tired of one another which makes sense... It still sounds foolish they didn’t do so. I mean I don’t think anyone could ever have a day/night the way these two have, surely another risk wouldn’t hurt? Jesse and Celine depart, as we can only see the two feel extremely upset as it had to end. It’s a rather fitting conclusion towards a Fantastic Beginning between Celine and Jesse, as we as an audience only hope for in which Celine and Jesse desire: They Reunite in Six Months.

Before Sunset Grade: B+

Our romantic journey continues, as Jesse appears at a book reading/signing event in Paris. A book in which was inspired by Jesse’s romantic day with Celine. You never guess who was there?! Celine. Jesse couldn’t believe his eyes that Celine was there, as they reunite for the first time in nine years. Celine and Jesse catch up on what had partaken in their lives, since they first met. Both have moved on as Celine is striving to take care of important matters in the world, while Jesse is now a writer married and has a son.

Though this is suppose be a rather joyous moment, as the two reunite... This part of the story is where guilt and shame takes place. Both feel guilty as they weren’t able to come through with their promise, as they both had to moved on with their lives. Sure on paper both sound like they’re in a good place, but honestly they’re not completely content with their lives, as they moved on towards a life they didn’t truly want. When it comes to waiting for a life you want, often times it’s hard to stay committed when years go by as you’re still in the same place you were before. Moving on is certainly the best option to go, however it doesn’t necessarily mean one is going to be completely fine, choosing their second option over their first option. I often times shame my teenage self, as I stay committed to my crushes rather than go pursue other women. Though the other options in front of me would’ve been fine choices, however they wouldn’t have been the woman I wanted in which my heart beats repeatedly for. So in a way I understand just like how these characters felt.

Truth be told when Jesse wrote the book, he wrote it in hopes that he would end up reuniting with Celine, as he spent four years perfecting the story good enough in which can land him a reading/signing across the globe. So despite being married and having a son, the thought of Celine was never moved on from Jesse’s mind. Jesse has a flight to catch later on the day, but has enough time to catch up with Celine. This time around we’re not offer an experience, instead we’re offered a settle happy reunion, but impacted heavily on a emotional feud between the two during a boat ride and car ride home. They feel guilt and shame towards their own lives. The way these two interact this time around, you can feel some happiness as their brought back together, yet you can feel how their heart has been torn apart, letting one another slip out of the palms of their own hands. Surely not allowing each other to exchange numbers/addresses bit them in the ass, despite reasoned, but soon they’ll learn it was worth taking a risk than letting each other go. When it comes to Love, you have to do whatever it takes to maintain it, even if you have to risk it.

As it was time for Jesse to depart from Celine, Jesse instead finds an excuse to spend another minute with Celine. Whether it be Jesse’s driver driving Celine home, instead of her walking home. Though Jesse and Celine arrived at her complex, Jesse still finds another excuse as he wants to walk her to home. But as they arrived to her home... As Jesse and Celine were discussing Celine writing songs as she plays guitar, he insists in staying for a cup of tea, while hearing her play a song. As Jesse hears her sing a lovely song, he wants to hear more as Celine refuses, but instead plays a record on her CD player. Jesse was in complete Joy, as he watches Celine dance, as you can tell Jesse just adores the heavenly sight of this woman. As time went on Celine tells Jesse that she was sure he was going to miss his flight, while Jesse just smiles away as he agrees with her statement, as he watches on. It was then on Jesse wasn’t going to make the same mistake he made when he was younger, as he chosen to strive for a life in which he wanted, as that was a life that consists of Celine being in it.

Before Sunset is the shortest entry of the three, yet during it’s short run time, it’s emotionally impactful. It’s a great continuation towards the romantic journey, as the dialogue remains ever so strong. But instead of being impacted on intriguing dialogue alone, it’s more impactful as the feud between the two in guilt and shame just really strikes chords in the audience heart. A great sequel that compliments it’s successor, with an extremely delightful last shot that can make anyone smile, as one anticipates what is bound to happen between the two in the final entry of the trilogy.

Before Midnight Grade: B+

I feared this day would come... The day in which I had to finish the trilogy, trying to hold back the tears as we speak. How the story begins Jesse has to say goodbye to his son, whom spent a glorious vacation with him, as he has to go back home to his mother back in the states. Jesse and Celine are now indeed a couple, with twins in the backseat as they continue their vacation in Greece.

The story caters to the times of today, as there is conversations of the advanced stages of technology as to how they are translating to romance of today’s generation, while conversations relating to religion, politics, etc. you know the deal. As far as our beloved couple, this time around... Things are not where they used to be between Celine and Jesse like they were in the first two films, as they appear to be a typical older couple, whom tend to make an argument over every little thing. It’s funny how one commented on Letterboxd by the username Brat Pitt, claiming they want to go back to being a story of Romantic Escapism, rather than show the harsh realities of romance.

When it comes to Romance... There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, where one feels like they’re in a fairytale. That’s why they’re called Fairytales in the first place... There is no such thing as a relationship, which includes only happy days and no confrontations ever taken place. They’ll come a time where you feel like you’re in a never ending argument with your significant other, where there the only objective is basically a contest who can complain the most. Richard Linklater ends his beloved trilogy, by switching it to the hardship of reality of the contemplated confrontations of being in a relationship.

The going goes great when romance first starts, as we like to call it the HoneyMoon stage. You’re only filled with endless happiness, joy, as you’re completely inseparable from your significant other as you can’t imagine being away from them for one second. But when you develop a relationship, in which carries on through a course of many years... Things change drastically. It feels like the more time you spend with someone, the more you just hate the sight of them, which in a way happens between Jesse and Celine.

The moral conflict in this entry is basically Jesse feels guilty, not being there for his son as he continues to grow up. He feels in a way he should be there, as this really is the time a son really needs a father figure. Jesse insists on going back to the states to be closer to his son, as unfortunately Celine has no desire in living in America again. It’s not that Jesse is insisting that they have to move, he’s simply expressing his feelings on this situation, as he wishes he could be there but knows given the circumstances with the job and how Celine feels, he knows it can’t be done. Instead of listening to one another and finding reason behind their feelings, they instead argue the entire time, even when they’re suppose to being enjoying a romantic spot in this hotel, catered by a couples massage.

When it comes to human nature, majority of the time when it comes to being with someone for so long, they bring out faults in ones past that has nothing to do with the situation. False claims trying make one feel like they’re a bad guy, point out their own flaws, or create problems for no apparent reason other than to continue this endless fight. That’s really all Jesse and Celine do this entire trip, as you feel a sense that these two may not end up together by the time this vacation is over. After their confrontation is over, Celine then tells Jesse that she no longer loves him, as she finally leaves the hotel room. Where one feels this is it, this is it as far as how it ends... Fear not, Jesse is here to save the day.

He then approaches to Celine alone outside on a small patio dining table, with a drink near her. Jesse reads off a napkin, in which no words are written, as he hopes what he comes up with his head helps solve this situation. After this trick didn’t solve the problems at hand with Celine, he then comes down to earth as he tells Celine like it is. Basically Jesse tells Celine that this is the closet thing to perfect, as she’ll ever get with anyone. So it seems completely pointless to move on from what they have, as she starts over and tries to find something that’ll never match the love they have for each other. Celine then gets over the confrontation she had with Jesse, as she comes back down to earth, as she continues to love him once more, concluding this great trilogy with a great ending.

My Take on the Before Trilogy

First off let’s express how well shot each entry is, as it truly brings out the experience each and every film. In a way like the love Celine and Jesse, there is so much to explore regarding the world we live in, as this trilogy takes you to many different places and countries one can only dream of having. Of course Before Sunrise is the best entry regarding a visual experience, since there’s a lot more dive into towards scenery. But even in Before Sunset and Before Midnight the visuals are still as timeless as the likes of Before Sunrise.

The Before trilogy can never be the Before trilogy, without our two main stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Both of their performances are great, to the point where you don’t ever see actors playing characters, as it feels like you’re watching a real life couple right before your eyes. Perfect chemistry between the two, everything feels real and timeless with these performances. It only seems like their performances only grows over the course of time, as it’s keeps on getting better and better with each entry as well. You can tell both actors extremely enjoyed being apart of this trilogy, as they also played a part in the writing process of the following sequels. That’s how much passion everyone had involved in the making of this trilogy, which is extremely rare considering this a very low budget project.

The Before Trilogy is an authentic realistic look, in which how Romance is accurately depicted. When I think of how modern day society depicts Romance, I can honestly say majority of the time they’re completely delusional. They either live in a fantasy world or just don’t understand what is true romance, as sometimes Romance films gives us a false look. With The Before Trilogy it’s the closest thing you’ll ever see, what a real relationship is suppose to look like. You’ll start with your honeymoon phase between the course of the first two films, as once you’re fully acquainted with each other over a long period of time... You start to get sick of each other. For some reason when couples spend a lot of time with each other, over time they constantly criticize the mannerisms of their significant other, as they’ll create fights over something that happened years ago. It’s extremely difficult to understand, but I feel that’s just how human nature is: When you spend so much time with someone, you start to not enjoy it as you once did. Easily can be compared to a favorite food, you enjoy that meal, but after awhile when you constantly consume it, you start to get sick of it for awhile.

The films clearly shows that a perfect relationship in which everything is high up all the time, is never going to happen. Nothing in life is perfect honestly, there’s good and bad within everything. The Before Trilogy in a way is what a relationship should look like. A relationship that consists of law of attraction. A relationship that provides happiness for one another, whether it be providing compliments, humor, or another form of love. A relationship in which consists of growth with one another’s mindset, as not only you can develop a life with that person, but grow as an individual. Lastly a relationship in which doesn’t run away from their problems, as they’re willing to work with one another, trying to find solutions so they can continue their love. Romance was never meant to be completely perfect, only those that are completely delusional think like this, which is why so many people struggle with relationships as they live in this fantasy world that everything has to be perfect, otherwise it can’t work. Celine and Jesse is the perfect example of romance you can possibly find in any romance film. It’s passionate, brutal, emotional, as it speaks volumes to how romance truly is. It’s a long process that’s going to consist of highs and lows, but true love is worth going through the motions, as Jesse was willing to do so with Celine.

When it comes to modern day society, The Before Trilogy may feel like a culture shock to some people. When it comes to the culture we live in today, it’s more self centered as those value materialistic items over relationships with human beings. That’s why you’ll likely see people get into relationships for the wrong reasons more so now a days, they’re only concern with financial stability, rather than developing love with one another. Nothing wrong with that by any means, it’s their life as you only hope their a good person. But the thing is guess what happens down the road?! They’re miserable. When you’re in a relationship solely for their material worth, it doesn’t bring much value regarding your relationship and personal growth. Seriously how is one suppose to grow with another human being, in which you don’t truly love that human being for whom they are as a person?! Sure the materialistic stuff is nice, but at the end of the day it’s materials that have no value once their journey of life is over. You’re not suppose to be with someone just solely on money, you’re suppose to be someone due to the fact you truly love the person they are, that they make you feel good about yourself to where you feel loved, that you truly love the person that they are, and you can see consistency of growth over the course of time you spend together. Love is meant to grow with someone and throughly enjoying the experience, through the ups and downs, not because of meaningless garbage that’s not going anywhere when it’s all said and done.

The writing in each trilogy is not only fantastic from a story standpoint, but fantastic as far as dialogue goes. Each conversation partaking with Celine and Jesse is extremely fascinating, as it brings your mind towards great heights, due to the relatability and level on interest in each topic of discussion. In a way it often plays a character in the story, as you just anticipate what is bound to be said between our characters.

If there’s one trilogy in which is worth investing, that’ll provide a wonderful experience, wonderful storytelling, while providing knowledge in how a relationship is suppose to be done... It’s gotta be The Before Trilogy. Every entry has a common theme: They’re all great from start to finish. So I do highly recommend The Before Trilogy, it’s a must watch especially if you’re into romance films like I am, everyone should experience this series once in their life. Well this concludes our special edition of Retro Talk, congrats to Richard Linklater for bringing us a great trilogy that’ll be discussed heavily with film lovers, over the course of time as it already has. -Mitch Smietana

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