On Friday Valentine's Day rolls around, and it would be easy to sit down and watch one of those romantic comedies like Miss Congeniality (2000) or Legally Blonde (2001), or one of those melodramatic love stories like The Notebook (2004), or or Love Story (1970). There is nothing wrong with any of these movies, well except Love Story, but for me love is defined by a more honest expression of the highs and lows within a relationship. There is no film franchise, yes franchise, which succeeds better or tackles a relationship better than the 'Before' series.
In 1995 Richard Linklater (director/writer) with Kim Krizan (writer) created the characters of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) and their journey of love began on train Europe in Before Sunrise. This wonderful journey starts with the passion of young love, you meet someone on a train, there is flirting, which leads to this intense passion, and a plan to once the day has ended meet up soon after, and create a passionate love affair. Sunrise is the perfect representation of young love, or love in your 20s. As they spend their night together in Vienna these two young people enact the passion they believe, and there is hope from them that they will meet up once their night ends, but in the vein of young twenty somethings they walk away at the train station, as Linklater cuts to each of the places they were throughout the night.
Nine years later (2004) Jesse has written a book, and is touring Europe; he ends his tour in Paris, in a small cafe/book store, and meets Celine once again in Before Sunset. At this point Jesse is married with a child in his thirties, and Celine has continued her independence as a single woman. The evolution of these characters, and the continued chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is magnetic. After nine years these two are still drawn to one another, even though they have physically moved in their lives, that first night plays out in the truest romantic sense. Sunset is simple, and in real time focuses on a walk, and traveling along the streets of Paris as they two battle their attraction, with the reality of life. These two people are at a crossroads in their life battling their emotions from the "idealistic" 20s and the pending reality of their future years, and where they will go next.
Nine years later in 2013, we find out the next steps for Jesse and Celine in Before Midnight. Jesse and Celine end up together, after spending a night together in Paris; she gets pregnant from that night, and they live in Europe, while the film starts with Jesse's son leaving them after visiting. While the other two films focused on love in a hopeful state Midnight takes a look at the span of the variety of which exists. Jesse and Celine are now in their forties and grappling with their aging, the idealism for their careers, and being a family versus being just these two people who have little adventures for a day.
In my review for Before Midnight I wrote the following:
"Before Midnight is a revelation, where young sweethearts turn into George and Martha. Jesse and Celine are potentially at a better place than that couple, but the film leaves you feeling the heft of the emotional struggle couples face as their relationship ages and they are at the middle. How do you cope with children sex, romance, passion, self preservation idealism? Jesse and Celine battle all of this in Midnight. This is one of the most honest films, and should be praised for turning the evolution of romance into a trilogy."
The 'Before' series could and should continue its evolution, Richard Linklater is a brilliant director; he captures the simplicity of a complicated relationship. Linklater worked on the script for Sunset and Midnight with Delpy and Hawke, and the words are poetry. Together this team has created the best franchised or film series ever produced, which shows the evolution of love, and all the various places it goes, and has been.