Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy

The name “chick flick” is so commonplace in contemporary cinema. Nobody will be able to tell you when or where exactly the term originated from but one can look back at the Golden Age of Hollywood and argue that films such as “An Affair To Remember”, “Gone With The Wind”, and  “Camille” could be considered chick flicks. The word is basically slang to define a movie of the romantic genre but more recently, it’s been pigeonholed to describe a romantic film that is extremely cheesy and derivative with their excessive “mushiness”.

An Affair To Remember 3

Most of us know the standard format for a chick flick, right? Guy meets girl. Guy and girl fall in love after some conflict. Guy and girl live happily ever after. We get it. It’s tiring.

There are several (mostly independent) films, though, that are so much more than that. Films that actually help you identify with and feel every characters’ motives and emotions. My favorite being the “Before” trilogy. The Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) helmed dramas star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as the seemingly perfect couple.

The first film, Before Sunrise, was released in 1995. An American man, Jesse (Hawke), and a French woman, Celine (Delpy), are two strangers who randomly meet on a train on the way to Vienna. After sharing their respective backgrounds, they arrive at the destination. Suddenly Jesse, noticing an attraction between them, suggests that Celine spend the day with him before he flies home to the United States. After some reluctance, she gives in and spends the the remainder her time in Vienna with Jesse before returning to her normal life. Within 24 hours, they visit various landmarks around the city and share an inseparable bond. As their affair draws to an end, both realize how the experience has impacted both of them. They share a heartfelt goodbye, promising to meet up at a later date to pick up where they left off. The film was unusual (in a good way) in that the main characters mostly talk for an hour and 45 minutes. The low budget drama is almost entirely dialogue which makes their romance seem so real. The writing, in my opinion, is what makes this film. Two beautifully written characters that keep you compelled until the last line, a trait that will only improve in the sequel.


The second film, Before Sunset, was released in 2004 and takes place 9 years after the original story. Jesse, now a successful novelist, and Celine reunite by chance when Celine attends one of Jesse’s book signings in Paris. They agree to spend the next couple of hours together before Jesse catches a flight. They immediately reignite the charming chemistry they shared from the first feature. We learn that Jesse is now married with a son while Celine is also in a long-term relationship. Jesse jokes about returning to Vienna after the first film to hopefully see Celine but failing, showing how much their initial encounter meant to him. Both characters express dissatisfaction with their current lives and find solace within one another leading up to the film’s climax. Before Sunrise, while critically acclaimed, was meant to be a one off so in theory, a sequel wasn’t entirely necessary but all involved loved making the first film so much that they badly wanted this film made. Ethan Hawke was quoted as saying “It’s not like anybody was begging us to make a second film. We obviously did it because we wanted to”. The film’s script was subsequently nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Fans of the previous two films were wondering whether or not a third one will ever be made. Those fans (including myself) will get their wish. The final film, Before Midnight, is set to be released this Friday, May 24th.I don’t want to spoil anything since its premise is a direct result of the previous film. Linklater is back to direct and the two main stars are ready to set the big screen ablaze. Early screenings of the movie are getting rave reviews and it was a big hit at this year’s Tribecca Film Festival in New York City. If you’re a fan of romantic dramas and looking for something more that isn’t the latest Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston flick, check it out, but not before seeing the first two cinema masterpieces first!

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Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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