When Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine met on that Vienna-bound train 18 years ago in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, nobody could’ve imagined that it would be the start of one of indie cinema’s most beguiling romances.
Their fleeting encounter became even more tantalising in 2004’s sequel Before Sunset, when Jesse and Celine reunite in Paris, leaving us with the mother of all cliffhangers as the credits rolled before we discovered whether he’d return to the US to his wife...
A further nine years on, Linklater and his co-writers Hawke and Delpy dispense with the teasing. Within five minutes of Before Midnight, we know that Jesse never got that plane. He and Celine are together, have twin girls and are now seeing out the end of a blissful summer in Greece at a writer’s retreat in the southern Peloponnese.
But there’s trouble in paradise, with Jesse desperate to ship the family to America to be close to his son from his failed marriage…
Though it mostly sticks to the walking-and- talking template, there are some notable tweaks. A few more characters, for one. And this time, some of the first two films’ wistfulness is bravely swapped for the more mundane matters that plague partnerships. Linklater keeps it organic, letting conversations meander, arguments flare, resentments bubble.
One car journey is brilliantly captured in an unbroken 13-minute take. Hawke and Delpy know these characters inside out, but that doesn’t stop their exchanges feeling vital and alive. Long before the clock strikes midnight, you’ll be in love with them again.
The leads and Linklater triple up for a friendly chat-track and 37-min on-stage Q&A.
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