Before trilogy

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Before trilogy
Before Trilogy.jpg
Directed byRichard Linklater
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Ethan Hawke
  • Julie Delpy
Music by
  • Lee Daniel
    (Sunrise & Sunset)
  • Christos Voudouris
Edited bySandra Adair
Distributed by
Release date
Running time
290 minutes
Budget$8.2 million
Box office$48.8 million

The Before trilogy consists of three films directed by Richard Linklater, and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as lovers Jesse and Céline at three different parts of their lives. The trilogy consists of the films Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). Filmed and set at nine-year intervals, each film takes place over the course of a few hours. A short sequence in the animated anthology film Waking Life also features the characters.


Before Sunrise was inspired by a woman whom writer/director Richard Linklater met in a toy shop in Philadelphia in 1989.[1] They walked around the city together, conversing deep into the night. Originally in the screenplay, who the two people were and the city they spend time in was vague. Linklater realized that because the film is so much a dialogue between a man and a woman, it was important to have a strong woman co-writer. He chose Kim Krizan, who had small roles in his two previous films Slacker and Dazed and Confused.[1] According to Linklater, he "loved the way her mind worked – a constant stream of confident and intelligent ideas".[2]

Linklater and Krizan talked about the concept of the film and the characters for a long time.[2] He wanted to explore the "relationship side of life and discover two people who had complete anonymity and try to find out who they really were".[3] He decided to put Jesse and Céline in a foreign country because "when you're traveling, you're much more open to experiences outside your usual realm".[3] He and Krizan worked on an outline. They wrote the actual screenplay in 11 days.[2]

Linklater spent nine months casting the film because he saw so many people but had trouble finding the right actors for the roles of Jesse and Céline.[4] When Linklater first considered casting Hawke, he thought that the actor was too young for the part.[5] Linklater saw Hawke at a play in New York City and reconsidered after talking to the actor. For Céline, Linklater met Julie Delpy and liked her personality. After they did a final reading, Linklater knew that Delpy and Hawke were right for the roles.[5] Once Delpy and Hawke agreed to do the film, they went to Austin and talked with Linklater and Krizan for a few days.[2] In 2016, Delpy told Creative Screenwriting, "Ethan and I basically re-wrote all of it. There was an original screenplay, but it wasn't very romantic, believe it or not. It was just a lot of talking, rather than romance. Richard hired us because he knew we were writing and he wanted us to bring that romance to the film. We brought those romantic ideas and that's how I wrote something that actually got made, without really getting credit for it. But, if I had written Before Sunrise and been credited, then I doubt it would have been financed.".[6] Though Delpy and Hawke were not credited with writing this film, they received credit for co-writing the sequels.

After the filming of Before Sunrise, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy discussed making a sequel. Linklater considered a version to be filmed in four locations and with a much larger budget. When his proposal did not secure funding, he scaled back the concept of the movie.[7] In a 2010 interview, Hawke said that the three had worked on several potential scripts over the years. As time passed and they did not secure funding, they adapted elements of the earlier scripts for Before Sunrise in their final draft of Before Sunset.[8]

Linklater described the process of completing the final version of the film as:

We sat in a room and worked together in about a two- or three-day period, worked out a very detailed outline of the whole film in this sort of real-time environment. And then, over the next year or so, we just started e-mailing each other and faxing. I was sort of a conduit – they would send me monologues and dialogues and scenes and ideas, and I was editing, compiling and writing. And that's how we came up with a script.[7]

Hawke said, "It's not like anybody was begging us to make a second film. We obviously did it because we wanted to."[9]

The movie was filmed entirely on location in Paris. It opens inside the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the Left Bank. Other locations include their walking through the Marais district of the 4th arrondissement, Le Pure Café in the 11th arrondissement, the Promenade Plantée park in the 12th arrondissement, on board a bateau mouche from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Henri IV, the interior of a taxi, and finally "Céline's apartment." Described in the film as located at 10 rue des Petites-Écuries, it was filmed in Cour de l'Étoile d'Or off rue du Faubourg St-Antoine.

The movie was filmed in 15 days, on a budget of about US$2 million.[7][10] The film is noted for its use of the Steadicam for tracking shots and its use of long takes; the longest of the Steadicam takes lasts about 11 minutes.[10] As the summer was one of the hottest on record, the cast and crew suffered along with the city residents, as temperatures exceeded 100 degrees F (38 °C) for most of the production.

The film is notable for essentially taking place in real time, i.e. the time elapsed in the story is the run time of the film. In the fast-changing temperate Paris climate, this created challenges for the cinematographer Lee Daniel to match the color and intensity of the skies and ambient light from scene to scene. The scenes were mostly shot in sequence, as they were still developing the screenplay. Producer Anne Walker-McBay worked with less time and less money than she had on Before Sunrise, but still brought the film in on time and on budget. The sequel was released nine years after Before Sunrise, the same amount of time that has lapsed in the plot since the events of the first film.

The film was released in the wake of Hawke's divorce from Uma Thurman. Some commentators drew parallels between Hawke's personal life and the character of Jesse in the film.[11] Additional comment has noted that both Hawke and Delpy incorporated elements of their own lives into the screenplay.[10][12] Delpy wrote two of the songs featured in the film, and a third by her was included in the closing credits and movie soundtrack.

Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy had all discussed doing a sequel to Before Sunset (or the third in a trilogy). In November 2011, Hawke said that he, Delpy and Linklater

"have been talking a lot in the last six months. All three of us have been having similar feelings, that we're kind of ready to revisit those characters. There's nine years between the first two movies and, if we made the film next summer, it would be nine years again, so we started thinking that would be a good thing to do. So we're going to try and write it this year."[13][14]

In June 2012, Hawke confirmed that the sequel to Before Sunset would be filmed that summer.[15] Soon after, Delpy denied filming would take place that year.[16] But by August 2012, numerous reports emerged from Messenia, Greece, that the film was being shot there.[17]

The completion of filming the sequel, titled Before Midnight, was announced on September 5, 2012.[18] Linklater said that, after ten weeks of writing and rehearsing, the film was made in fifteen days for less than $3 million.[19] He intended to take it to a film festival in early 2013.[20]


Before Sunrise[edit]

Before Sunrise, the first film in the trilogy, is set in a single night in Vienna, Austria. Jesse, an American student traveling Europe, and Céline, a French student returning to university after visiting relatives, meet on a train traveling to Vienna from Budapest, Hungary. The two wander the streets of Vienna and become romantically interested in each other. At the end of the film, they part, but agree to meet again in the future.

Before Sunset[edit]

Before Sunset takes place nine years after the first film, and is set in a single afternoon in Paris, France. Jesse, now a best-selling author, has a chance encounter with Céline while on tour in Europe promoting his latest book, an account of their prior meeting in Vienna. They lament that they had not followed through with their prior plans to meet again, and wander Paris having conversations similar to the first film. At the end of the film, Jesse returns to Céline's apartment and intentionally misses his plane to return to the U.S. to spend more time with her.

Before Midnight[edit]

Before Midnight takes place nine years later, and is set in a single afternoon in at a seaside village in Greece. Jesse and Céline are now a couple, Jesse having divorced the mother of his son Hank. The two have twin daughters together, and initially appear happy, but the relationship is at a crossroads as Jesse wishes to move to Chicago to be closer to his son, while Céline wishes to stay in Paris to take a job with the French government. The two have a heated argument over the matter, but reconcile by the end of the film.


Critical and public response[edit]

Before Sunrise received high critical praise at the time of its release. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 8.32/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Thought-provoking and beautifully filmed, Before Sunrise is an intelligent, unabashedly romantic look at modern love, led by marvelously natural performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy."[21] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100 based on 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[22] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B on scale of A to F.[23]

Film critic Roger Ebert gave Before Sunrise three out of four stars and described Julie Delpy as "ravishingly beautiful and, more important, warm and matter-of-fact, speaking English so well the screenplay has to explain it (she spent some time in the States)".[24] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Before Sunrise is as uneven as any marathon conversation might be, combining colorful, disarming insights with periodic lulls. The film maker clearly wants things this way, with both these young characters trying on ideas and attitudes as if they were new clothes".[25] Hal Hinson, in his review for The Washington Post wrote, "Before Sunrise is not a big movie, or one with big ideas, but it is a cut above the banal twentysomething love stories you usually see at the movies. This one, at least, treats young people as real people".[26]

Before Sunset received wide acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it hold an approval rating of 95% based on 174 reviews, with an average rating of 8.31/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Filled with engaging dialogue, Before Sunset is a witty, poignant romance, with natural chemistry between Hawke and Delpy."[27] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 90 out of 100 based on 39 reviews from mainstream publications, indicating "universal acclaim".[28] The film appeared on 28 critics' top 10 lists of the best films of 2004,[29] and took the 27th spot on Metacritic's list of The Best-Reviewed Movies of the Decade (2000–09).[30]

In comparing this film to the first, American film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Before Sunrise was a remarkable celebration of the fascination of good dialogue. But Before Sunset is better, perhaps because the characters are older and wiser, perhaps because they have more to lose (or win), and perhaps because Hawke and Delpy wrote the dialogue themselves."[31] In her review for the Los Angeles Times, Manohla Dargis lauded the film as a "deeper, truer work of art than the first," and praised director Linklater for making a film that "keeps faith with American cinema at its finest."[32]

Before Midnight also received widespread critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 98% based on reviews from 189 critics, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The site's consensus is: "Building on the first two installments in Richard Linklater's well-crafted Before trilogy, Before Midnight offers intelligent, powerfully acted perspectives on love, marriage, and long-term commitment."[33] Metacritic gives the film a score of 94 out of 100, based on reviews from 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". It was listed as the third-best film of the year after 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.[34] It was the second-best reviewed film of 2013 according to Rotten Tomatoes, after Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity.[35]

According to Total Film's Philip Kemp,

"As with its two predecessors — and with the films of French New Wave director Éric Rohmer, presiding deity of this kind of cinema—Midnight's essentially a film about people talking. But when the talk's this good, this absorbing and revealing and witty and true, who's going to complain?... [It's a] more-than-worthy, expectation-exceeding chapter in one of modern cinema's finest love stories. As honest, convincing, funny, intimate and natural as its predecessors."[36]

Perry Seibert of AllMovie also praised the film, writing: "The screenwriting trio fill the movie with long, discursive conversations (there are only two scenes in the first 20 minutes) that feel utterly improvised when they are performed, but are far too deftly structured to be anything other than the work of consummate artists."[37] Eric Kohn, from Indiewire, gave the film a rave review, adding it to his list of Top 10 Films of 2013. He wrote that "With Before Midnight, Richard Linklater has completed one of the finest movie trilogies of all time."[38]

Film Release Date Budget Box Office Gross
January 19, 1995 $2.5 million $5.5 million
February 10, 2004 $2.7 million $16 million
January 20, 2013 $3 million $23.3 million

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
100% (43 reviews)[39] 77 (18 reviews)[40]
95% (174 reviews)[41] 90 (39 reviews)[42]
98% (200 reviews)[43] 94 (41 reviews)[44]


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  2. ^ a b c d Linklater, Richard; Kim Krizan (March 1995). "Before Sunrise". St. Martin's Griffin. pp. V.
  3. ^ a b Donahue, Christina (April 1995). "Love in the Aftermath". Film Threat.
  4. ^ Hicks, Alice M (April 12, 1995). "Richard Linklater's All-Nighter". MovieMaker. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Griffin, Dominic (April 1995). "Slack Jawing". Film Threat.
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