The Before series is a romance trilogy consisting of 3 movies, each set nine years apart and covering the course of a few hours. It manages to accomplish a lot in those precious few in-movie hours that the characters spend together and makes every moment special. The series primarily follows two main characters, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), who manage to strike a brilliant chemistry on their first meeting, and the viewer is suddenly drawn in by their captivating and interesting conversations that follow. Their conversations encompass a whole lot of topics like: love, life, loss, music, travel, and any number of things a young adult couple would talk about on their first meeting when they’re mesmerised by each other.
Their journey begins in the first film, before sunrise, when both are traveling on a train to Vienna and stumble upon each other by chance. As is usual, they strike up a conversation by talking about something as common as a book and quickly get to know more about each other. But with the next stoppage being Vienna where Jesse is supposed to get off, their conversation is bound to come to an end soon. Jesse has second thoughts about leaving someone as sweet as Celine and manages to convince her to get off with him at Vienna as well. They proceed to roam around the city, talking about various things and each covering a deep and meaningful aspect of love and life. Subsequent films, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, follow a similar pattern, each heavily focused on conversations about their lives and what transpired in their lives up to that point.
Director Richard Linklater is known for making films that capture the fleeting nature of time and the effect it has on humans. He intended to capture the feeling of the first uncertain meeting and the youthful excitement that comes with young love in the first film. The second film is focused on a more mature take, placing the same couple together but in a completely different setting. They’re experienced and have kids, hence their conversations are different from the ones in the first film. It proves to be an interesting and unique formula to keep the storytelling fresh while providing a different outlook on how time affects human nature. The third film deals with feelings of having lived the ideal life one would want, no longer chasing unattainable love but instead vying for stability and family. The Before trilogy is a unique and interesting take on the romance genre and excels at what it tries to accomplish.