The "Before" Trilogy

I have just started re-watching Richard Linklater’s masterpiece the Before Trilogy and despite having seen these films countless times since they first came out I have to admit that yet again I am just utterly blown away by them. I’m around the same age as Ethan Hawke so when I watched the first at the cinema in 1995 I was like him - an early-mid-twenties young guy just starting to find my way in the world, travelling independently for the first time, meeting girls and exploring art, music, film and philosophy. As I watched the movie I realised that what I was actually watching was a couple randomly meeting on a train and connecting at a profoundly deep level. What is astonishing is how it captures that wide eyed excitement of realising you might just have met the love of your life completely out of the blue… The dialogue is simply mesmerising and reminds me of a couple of times in my own life when I actually had those sorts of conversations with a girl - and wondered.

The film sets up a real cliffhanger of an ending and it’s incredible that Linklater actually waited 9 years before making the second. I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t yet seen this utter masterpiece, but watching it again yesterday I think this one is perhaps my favourite film of them all and might just be my favourite film of all time. We catch up with Celine and Jessie in Paris in their early 30’s and both are in a rather different place in their lives. By that age you’ve lost some of your idealism, you’ve taken a few wounds from love and cynicism is starting to creep in. This film captures all of that and so much more. As a statement on the human condition it is perfect and it maintains the intellectual gravitas of the first without ever dropping a beat.

The third instalment catches up with our couple in Greece, the cracks are not just starting to show but the tensions and pressures of external life are stretching the whole relationship to breaking point. Linklater stages one of the greatest arguments ever seen on celluloid here - only Virginia Wolf comes even remotely close. It’s a shattering and emotional ride but it perfectly demonstrates what seems in my experience to be the story arc of love. There have been many times in recent years when I have stopped to contemplate my own life, to reflect on the idyllic first meeting with my own wife, our profound connection, the sheer giddy excitement and adventure of the early years and to wonder “how the hell did we end up here?”

I wonder how many of you have actually seen the trilogy and how many of you are fans of it here? To me each are cinematic masterworks which are completely unique in their execution. The casting is perfect, the directing is perfect, the dialogue is perfect. In fact there isn’t a single thing I would change about any of them, it’s as if every single second of celluloid is simply the best it could ever be.

I live in hope of a fourth instalment (we are now overdue) and reportedly the two stars and Linklater who co-write are on board to do it, but only if they can come up with a suitably good plot/concept. Here’s hoping they do…



Major Kudos;

Yes, YES, and Yes

That being said I couldn’t watch all of the third movie…
I didn’t like the way it was going, and didn’t want to risk an ending I wasn’t prepared for (unlike the earlier films, who swept me up and I was willing to be thrown under the bus just for a few extra seconds of them)

Before they worked on the sequel, the stars (actors) were in a scene of another of Linklaters’ films’, “Waking Life”, which, having them in bed together was a terrific closure for fans, no doubt…

To say that I wholeheartedly agree with JohnnyGees’ take- these are masterclass about ‘being human’ and what film should be doing for the human race.

We don’t need every bit of media to be filled with high drama just to sell us ‘story’.
Sometimes being human and just basking in the humanity of ‘the situation’ is fine by me.

Growing up I had some girlfriends over to watch a movie, and, being interested in other things Before Sunrise just wasn’t to their pace…

Years later when travelling through Sydney with the ‘mother of my child’ (for a friends’ wedding), I spotted in a Virgin Megastore a double DVD release for the first two films. (The second had just come out)… It was weeks before I got to finally watch it, and, needless to say; “edge of my chair” and “tears”.

Thankyou Richard (Linklater)- you’re a champ, and so to for Johnathan for raising awareness as to this Trilogy.



Thanks for posting Jonathan, I absolutely adore this trilogy and can only second the blown away comment. Linklater did something special with these films in my opinion and I appreciate the time lapse in between; this serves to make it only more interesting to track the characters. The first two have a wonderful, emotional (certainly for me!) link and the third takes this further in showing the cracks appearing - more of a reality.


Great write up.
I confess to have only watched several times the first one.
Ethan got lucky in the story to hook up.
Recounting a couple of times I wished I had the same luck in this type of scenario with individuals that could/should have been the one but slipped through my grasp.


I loved reading your replies, somehow I just knew there would be some kindred spirits here who ‘get’ what Linklater accomplished. I’m genuinely not sure that any director has ever attempted something so ambitious and actually pulled it off. Toby, if you’ve only seen the first one then you absolutely have to see the second and third - you are going to be in a for a treat!!

Whitedragem and PaulM - great posts!! I would have loved them x10 if that were even possible!



For anyone breezing through this thread; Richard Linklater has a habit of doing these incredible ‘capture humaness’ projects.

Akin to watching Baraka, but with dialogue…
Floyds’ The Wall and American Beauty are emotional rollercoasters that are extreme versions of just such a trek; the Sunrise trilogy is more akin to something that wakes the heart from slumber, like “Amelie” (french cinema, which, to be fair to Julie Delphy, is on the cards after seeing anything with her excellent acting skills on show).

It is all in the dialogue, and the honest delivery… Ethan and Julie cowrote their lines based on them ‘knowing these characters’; the glances and interplay is some of the best on offer… found in movies like Cruel Intentions (Ryan and Reece), and House of Darkness (Cate and Justin) (maybe just the opening scene -they are married is my understanding, and the awkwardness in this films opening is PERFECT)


Thanks for your review Jonathan. I’m another fan of the trilogy and your post has reminded me that it’s time to watch them again. Reference to Linklater shouldn’t pass without mentioning Boyhood, which was another long-term project and which I should also watch again!


I’ve not seen any of them, but I will now, they sound like engrossing films so looking forward to watching, cheers

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Mark - you’re in for an absolute treat and I envy you coming to them for the first time (and not having to wait nine years between them!!)

You probably won’t have seen anything quite like them and it may take a few minutes to adjust, they are I think unique in what they demand of both the viewer and the cast.




Looking forward to it, will tell my daughter too :slightly_smiling_face:

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