Non-Blog: Richard Linklater's "Before..." Trilogy

From Before Sunset, courtesy Warner Independent Pictures

Binging on TV condenses weeks of episodes into a burst of viewing. Binging a movie series does the same for years of films (e.g. Harry Potter) but what about condensing decades?


All of the ideas expressed in this article are my personal statements and opinions, and do not reflect the opinions/statements of the City of Urbana.

The City of Urbana does not generally have strong feelings on movies, anyway.


Consider Richard Linklater’s “Before Trilogy”: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013). I never saw them on their release, but on the advice of an aficionado I trust I gave them a try. (Note #1, Note #2)

Binging all three in quick succession made for fascinating viewing, and I was struck by the similarity to Linklater’s film Boyhood, a single movie shot as a continuous story at separate times over twelve years.

Making the Before Trilogy more distinctive: each film occurs in less than 24 hours, giving the three stories a near-real-time urgency. Thinking about the implications of that made me want to write to dwell on that. After adding it to my “something to write about one day” list, I then found out I did not need to; it was excellently written as a short piece included in the Criterion collection. "Time Regained" – by Dennis Lim. Here's a link:

Rather than retread that territory, I just want to reference that piece and encourage you to revisit (or see) this trilogy as three snapshots over several decades of cinematic life. Taken individually, the films may not stand out from their peers, but as a trilogy they are a much more impressive achievement.


Note #1: For a fun story about Richard Linklater, please see my blog about him introducing one of his most perplexing films (Waking Life) to an intimate showing of 19 people (too intimate… to my chagrin as the theater operator). See the second item here:

Note #2: I love movies, but I’m not a cinephile who has an exhaustive knowledge of the great films. There are so many classic films I didn’t watch when I was younger - instead we were watching the mediocre films of the 80s and 90s, so when we rented movies from the video store it was more likely to be Dr. Butcher, MD than Dr. Zhivago.  (A real one I remember watching: