Where 1995’s Before Sunrise saw the birth of the bond and 2004’s Before Sunset served as primarily an extension that hinted of a future, Before Midnight finds the two in a full-on relationship. Jesse is still writing and now has a son with his ex-wife back in Chicago. Céline is exploring career options that could land the family in another country.
They’ve come so far and now their options are running low and their needs are farther apart than ever. Two decades later, they seem to have reached the edge. Early on, Céline states, “So this is how it ends.” Later on, things will be said that can never be unheard.
Although this is the rockiest we’ve seen the couple (everything up to this point has been laughter and reminiscing and romance), it’s still nice to catch up with them, to see where they’ve gone and who they’ve become.
Before Midnight is again directed by Richard Linklater and co-written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy (who earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Before Sunset). It is shot in the same style as the first two, with long, uninterrupted takes that call to mind a play and deep, thoughtful conversations that are natural and purposeful. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have such a firm grasp on the characters, their story and the series that there isn’t an ounce of phoniness to be found. To those that have followed the films since the beginning, Jesse and Céline are as authentic as characters come.
While much of that stems from the screenplay, so much credit belongs to the acting abilities of Hawke and Delpy. They give performances with such dimension and insight that their characters become people. These are turns so genuine and complex that they set the bar for how relationships should be portrayed on film.
Before Midnight is the sequel done right. There are no repeated scenarios that have gone stale (see: The Hangover trilogy) or characters introduced simply to fill out empty space (see: any horror sequel). It was made not for paychecks or accolades, but because it felt right to do. We hope it feels right again in 2022.
Revisiting Jesse & Céline (7:20): The director and stars discuss returning to the series, developing the ideas, the difference between Before Midnight and its predecessors, and more.
Q&A with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater (37:02): In this Q&A session, moderator Elvis Mitchell sits down with the trio for a conversation about Before Midnight. Topics include financing, location shooting, the screenplay, the tone, and much more.