Before Midnight posterStep one: If you haven’t already, go rent/watch Before Sunrise (1995)

Step two: If you haven’t already, go rent/watch Before Sunset (2004)

Step three: If you haven’t already, go see Before Midnight (2013)

If you follow the steps outlined above, you will be rewarded with some top-notch acting and storytelling. Skip a step, and you could miss the point.

All three movies star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as potential soulmates Jesse and Celine. In Before Sunrise, the American and Parisian meet on a train and spend one romantic evening together in Vienna, mostly talking. And talking. And talking some more.

Nine years later, they meet again, in Before Sunset. Jesse is in Paris for a day to promote a best-selling book inspired by his brief encounter with Celine. The two spend the afternoon together in the City of Lights, doing a lot of talking and catching up. He’s married with a son. She’s got a boyfriend. But neither is all that satisfied with life. And the connection between them is strong as ever. They talk some more. He’s got a plane to catch. Or not.
Before Sunset posterBefore Sunrise poster

That brings us to the latest sequel, Before Midnight. Jesse and Celine are living in Europe. They have twin girls. They still share a knack for conversation, but something is amiss. They spend a day in Greece, talking things out and watching the beautiful sunset, which may or may not be a metaphor for their relationship.

The trilogy (as it stands thus far) is an adult romantic drama that plays out more like a play than a movie. If you don’t like movies with a lot of dialogue then Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight may not be for you. That said, the dialogue is sharp, engaging, relatable and well-acted (and improvised) enough to convert some folks (like me) who might otherwise shun such a wordy undertaking. Watching – and listening to – Jesse and Celine is like being a fly on the wall in real time. We see them as hopeful 20-somethings with their whole lives ahead of them… as 30-somethings re-evaluating their choices and their goals… and as 40-somethings, older and wiser, but still searching and yearning for more out of life. To be continued?

Bonus: Check out Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in this very important PSA for movie-goers everywhere!

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