The "Before" Franchise: Must-See Movies of the Summer

By Andie Burjek on July 25, 2013

One of the first stack of movies I rented for the summer included “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004), in preparation for “Before Midnight” (2013).

With my high expectations and average-brow taste in movies, I found that “Before Sunrise” lived up to all of the hype. Jesse and Celine are romantic, thoughtful, and surprisingly not pretentious. Or at least it’s some unassuming, endearing pretentiousness in that they talk so much about philosophical things but it’s more relatable than demeaning. It’s a really beautiful look on what it’s like to be young and romantic. The fact that Richard Linklater’s movies take us through 18 years of these two people and their relationship is pretty amazing; we get to see Jesse and Celine meet and talk and talk and talk. There’s so much talking and hardly any action or dramatic changes in this film, but the talk alone (as the two stroll around in some cemetery or park in Vienna) is compelling. Their romance is understated and believable, as opposed to let’s say any other romantic movie that we get a lot of nowadays. We see the whole conversation, not only use the interesting parts or the introspective quips. Spending the night with Jesse and Celine is a great idea. No surprise that this movie is so critically acclaimed. WATCH IT.

(*Spoiler Alert*) “Before Sunset” is yet another beautiful film. Where to start? Of course Jesse and Celine didn’t meet up six months later, but at least it happened eventually. And of course he wrote a book about her and she wrote a beautiful waltz about him (which I play on repeat as I write this review). The last scene was understated and amazing. In the beginning Jesse says about his book that the ending depends on whether or not you’re an optimist or pessimist, and that’s exactly the attitude one can have about this movie, of course (or “Before Sunrise”. Duh.). I’m nine years late in movie “series”, so knowledge of “Before Midnight” kind of ruins the magic of guessing and theorizing and fantasizing about the possibility of a future for Jesse and Celine. Still, knowing their relationship in 2013 has no effect on how much I enjoyed seeing their relationship in 2004. For an hour, I forgot that there was a third movie that answered any questions I had.

So many amazing moments and conversations. This movie says a lot about growing up and how time changes a lot about you (but not the important things). Jesse and Celine are essentially the same people except that they’re older and are in very different life circumstances. They’re wiser than they were nine years ago. I love that line, about how when you’re young you think you’ll find that deep connection so many times in your life, but it really only happens a couple of times. Beautiful! Another great conversation was when they are driving to Celine’s house, and she flips out on him. Because how real is that. He wrote a book about her, and this one night they had, and of course it would affect her like that; something like that has to mess with her head. Both of them aren’t happy now, but they were in Vienna. It’s this nostalgia they feel, but it’s not this pathetic far-reaching nostalgia like, let’s say, Jay Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby”. It’s nostalgia for a real connection, not something fabricated or shallow, and her breakdown was one of the few moments where either of them acknowledged strongly and emotionally how important that night was. IF I forgot for a moment that there is a third film to finish this all, I’m not sure they would end up together this time around. They might just go back to their old lives, more than slightly dissatisfied, and try to grow out of their young, romantic ways. Saying it is totally pointless in 2013 though, and I can’t wait to see “Before Midnight”.

Hey there! I'm Andie, a junior at Madison-Wisconsin and Strategic Communications major. One day I want to be some combination of Amy Poehler, TIna Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Mad Men's Peggy Olson. Hobbies on campus include tutoring and DJing at the student radio station. Hobbies off campus include painting, running, reading, and movies.

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