Here’s a summary of the first two movies, in case you haven’t seen them.
Boy meets Girl on train to Vienna. Boy and Girl spend the night tooling around Vienna. Before Sunrise, Girl invites Boy to continue on with her to Paris and see her etchings. Boy says he has to catch a plane. Boy and Girl both agree to meet one year hence, same time, same place. We both know they won’t.
Nine years later. Boy has written successful book about his romantic encounter on the train. On a book tour in Paris, Girl shows up, and Before Sunset invites Boy to her apartment to see her etchings. Boy misses plane.
Current movie — nine more years later. Boy and Girl (now Man and Woman) are married, with successful careers and a family — two kids of their own plus joint custody of his son from his first marriage. On vacation in Greece, some friends offer to watch the kids so they can spend a night inspecting each others’ etchings at a luxury resort. They fight. Before Midnight, we find out whether their marriage survives or not.
I know this doesn’t sound like much. The arguments in particular will seem painfully familiar to long-married people. But the writing is outstanding, covers a wide range of issues, and is often surprisingly witty. Ultimately, the story suggests, the test of love may be not how you fight, but how (and whether) you make up.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, relatively unknown when this trilogy began, have now moved on to other projects. As far as I know, the two actors have never been an “item.” But they “sell,” this relationship, identifying with the fictional couple so much they each share screenwriting credits.
I hope to see them again in nine years.
Parental note: This film gets an R rating for a couple of naked boob shots, which is silly. On the other hand, it doesn’t strike me as a film that would interest most kids, even older ones.