So there’s a series of movies set every 9 years. You may have heard of them. They all start with the preposition “Before”
They all star Ethan Hawke (remember your tween crush on him in White Fang?), but don’t count that against them.
Before Sunrise (95) finds two twenty-somethings in Europe who find each other on a train, & spend time together at a stop in Vienna before…well, you know.
In 2004 we find the characters bumping into one another, in Paris, spending an afternoon Before Sunset.
Of course last year, we find them into their 40s, this time Greece, cause why not (you do have to spend time somewhere while shooting), all Before Midnight.
All the movies, more or less run in real time. All clock in less than 2 hours. It just follows a couple at different crossroads of their lives.
So what right?
This is so completely different kind of films. Beautiful. Intimate. Poignant.
In 20 years we see the deeply insufferable & entitled characters in their 20s (cause WE were never like that). The evolution 9 years has into one’s thirties. More grounded. Realist. And more pessimistic view of the world. And love.
Director Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Dazed & Confused) ends every film leaving the audience in a state of unknown. With questions unanswered.
I can’t help but compare these films to another series by director Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Midst, Coal Miners Daughter), in which he documents 13 real-brits every seven years (Up Series). Perhaps because I just finished viewing all of them. This documentary (yes this really happened) series thrives on set ups (like the Before Series), and unknowns. You think you know how the rich kid will wind up, as well as the poor. But little did you know, the poor kid winds up rich, and the middle class boy winds up homeless. Thats the point. If you care to go down the 14-hour rabbit hole it is on Netflix streaming!
Each installment of the Before series has an unending arsenal of intelligent & entertaining dialog, that feels too good to be true, yet somehow, undeniably honest. In the course of the series, we move from the philosophical rumblings and existential ideas, to the more perfunctory conversations about their own relationship. So unlike Garden State, which I hate to burst your bubble are not real characters, this movie has nothing but talking. So if you hate that, well then, you must be a pain to have a conversation with, on anything of substance.
You hit the ground running with each of these films. They all start with these characters already lived-in. Whats more is that these films don’t shy away from the hard realities of modern relationships. It lingers in those emotional truths that most films flinch away from, refusing to even acknowledge. The complexity comes in that it counters the dire realties full of humor and joy.
If you want closure, these aren’t it. Its very nature demands open-endedness (thats a word right?), that remains true to itself.
Do yourself. Check it out (nope, no netflix streaming, sorry. Nope no Amazon either. Outta luck. Gotta track down tangible media on this one).