We watched these on Mondays (“Before Mondays”) in January.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Celine and Jesse meet on a train, talk for a while, and he convinces her to disembark in Vienna and spend the day with him before his flight out. They ride the trains and buses, go record shopping, visit a cemetery, church and carnival (feat. The Third Man ferris wheel), talk to fortune teller, poet and theater guys, hang out in bars, cafes and plazas then end up in the park with a bottle of wine. Next morning at the train station, plans to meet again in six months. Standard, unadorned romance-movie setup. Nothing new here. But so, so perfect in the dialogue and details. Linklater won best director in Berlin.
Before Sunset (2004)
Carefully maintained real-time structure – only about one edit where I felt time might’ve elapsed, and then no more than a minute. It also shuts out all side characters once the main couple meets again at Jesse’s book event (right after readers succeed in getting him to admit that the girl he’s written about really exists). Conversation starts with reminiscing and explaining why they didn’t meet six months after last time, gradually turns more personal, revealing their dissatisfaction with current relationships, leading to one of my favorite-ever movie endings: Jesse, who parted with Celine last time to catch a plane, not making that mistake again.
Before Midnight (2013)
No more happy reunions – they’ve been together since the last movie and now have twin girls. Jesse is concerned about his son growing up with his mom a continent away and feels out Celine on the idea of moving there, which sparks a massive, movie-length argument that felt almost too real for Katy to handle. At least they’re in a new country, at the end of a writing retreat in Greece, but there’s little time for sightseeing. The first section of the movie has them in conversation with friends (including Athina Rachel Tsangari), a nice way of bouncing our main couple’s middle-aged ideas on love and romance off other couples of different ages.
EDIT NOV 2020: Watched the first movie again. Forgot that it ends with a L’Eclisse slideshow of places they’d been, the settings looking ordinary without Hawke/Delpy in frame. JAN 2021: Watched the second again :) MAR 2021: Watched the third again, more impressed with it this time. They’re repositioned as parents instead of lovers from the start, opening scene with Hawke and his son then the twin girls sleeping between them in frame in the next scene, Delpy conspiring with her husband to skip a tourist attraction the kids want to see. The rest is trying to return to the conversational tone of the earlier movies, laboriously pulling the two back together amidst conflict over parental responsibility.