Watching the Linklater trilogy in any fashion is incredible, but as a person who showed up late to the party and only screened these films for the first time last year, I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to actually follow Jesse and Celine through the years. Comparing it to other films with large gaps in time between releases doesn't quite work because rarely do the actual characters age on screen at the same rate as you do, and rarely do they feel as authentic and human. I would imagine if you started this journey with them in 1995, waiting nine years to see where their story would go next, these beautiful films would feel almost like documentaries about love and life. What was probably even more exciting is the fact that I doubt anyone knew for certain the story would even continue. I can't imagine waiting nearly a decade wondering if Jesse and Celine ever did meet up again six months in the future, and not having the answers sounds like agony.
I am jealous of this agony though. I am jealous of anyone who felt the euphoria of learning that a sequel would be made and the quintessential love story would continue. I am jealous of walking into the cinema with eager excitement, waiting for the passionate chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy to reignite before their eyes. I saw the trailer for Before Midnight before I ever even got to witness the way their love blossomed in Vienna over the course of one night, so I entered this wondrous cinematic trip already knowing that 18 years later they would be together in some regard. Regardless these are magical works, one of my all time favorite trilogies, but I have to wonder how much deeper my love for them could have been.
Perhaps that isn't the correct way to think about it though. Perhaps I saw these films at exactly the right time in my life, a time when I was married but still remember what it was like to first fall in love. A time when I still recall what it was like to fight for that relationship through the tougher times because I knew for a fact it was exactly what I wanted. A time when I already have a beautiful daughter and have had a chance to both accept and embrace the fact that everything changes after you experience the gift of bringing life into the world. A perfect balance of every possible emotion portrayed throughout these films, and their connection easily found a way to penetrate my soul.
Before Sunset has a flow to it that is intoxicating, as if I am soaking up every word they way seem to bask in the glow of the setting sun. The pacing is perfect to deliver absolutely everything you could ask for to understand the progression of these characters and their relationship. The dialogue is fresh and vibrant with a realistic tone to it, like they have actually be separated for so long and yet share a special bond that allows them to seemingly pick up right where they left off. Such intelligent, warm filmmaking, and Linklater knows exactly the right note to end the film, a moment that is sure to put a smile on your face yet also answer nothing about where Jesse and Celine will be in their lives if and when we were to ever see them again.