At the end of Before Sunrise, I was happy. The film had chronicled a single romantic experience from beginning to end, it was engaging, a little bit sexy, dripping with Euro-cool, and the ambiguity of the ending didn’t lessen the overall satisfaction. If there had never been another installment, I would still have been happy. However, that was not to be. Before Sunset came along, and that film ended with its central characters Jesse and Celine in a different place entirely. Instead of deciding to part, they decided to stay together, at least for now.
“So what happened next?” we cried, and thankfully the dream team of Linklater, Hawke and Delpy came through for us and delivered Before Midnight.
Gee, thanks, guys! Raise more questions than you answer, why don’t ya?
In Before Midnight Jesse and Celine were together, which was what I wanted. They had a pair of sweet little girls and they lived in Paris. They clearly loved each other. Jesse was a published novelist, and moreover people had actually read his books, while Celine was highly thought of as an environmental activist. Nevertheless, all was not rosy in their relationship. Jesse didn’t have enough access to his oldest child, and Celine resented Jesse for using their relationship in his novels, and not taking enough responsibility for their own family, and she also had a healthy dollop of guilt over separating Jesse from his son and frustration over work setbacks and fear about growing older. The film finished ambiguously, as you might expect. In the words of Celine, “This is how people break up.” So, where will Jesse and Celine go from here? Can they go the distance? Should they? Will there be another film to show us?
The first thing to ponder is, is another film necessary?
Reasons why there should be another Before movie
- Before Midnight left me wanting more. I want to know whether Jesse and Celine are still together. I want to know whether Celine has mellowed and if Jesse can mature.
- I feel very strongly about reason 1.
Reasons why there should not be another movie
- There is a law of diminishing returns on sequels. Wells of inspiration dry up, you know. The last thing I want is a final film which is so dreadful I pretend it doesn’t exist, like X3 or Mostly Harmless.
- Trilogies are powerful. Three is a strong number.
- What if it’s sad? I don’t know if I could handle a really sad one.
- be helmed by Linklater, Delpy and Hawke, obviously.
- be set in Europe. The old world romance, melancholy and beauty of European landscapes and cityscapes suits the intense, meandering, unfolding conversations of the characters. Rome is very nice, and most of the sights are within walking distance of each other. It wouldn’t make sense to take in the Vatican, though, unless you wanted to bring in public transport.
- be an organised meeting. For storytelling purposes I don’t mind whether Jesse and Celine are in a ‘couple’ situation or if they are just rendezvous-ing as parents of their twins, but I think they should have chosen to see each other.
- be based on conversation. Jesse and Celine have a connection, whether they are ‘in a relationship’ or not, and it’s expressed in banter and discussion.
- feature a happier Celine. In the second film I wanted to comfort and protect her, female to female. In Midnight, I felt sorry for Jesse! All her venom falls on him, and so for his sake if nothing else, she needs some inner peace.
- be as hard-going as Before Midnight. That was a punishing 90 minutes.
- come too soon. For Jesse and Celine to really be in a different (better) place emotionally, they need some water under the bridge. Nine years isn’t necessary, but I think we need at least five.
- whether Jesse and Celine are ‘together’ together. They are bound for life by their children, so they’re going to have a relationship anyway. They could be bittersweetly in love, or bittersweetly married to other people, or bittersweetly single. Whatever their relationship is, as long as they are past the horrors of Before Midnight, I’m content.
- whether it is completely ‘real time.’ It needs to tell a complete story of an encounter in detail, but it doesn’t have to account for every minute.
Well, look at that. Not only have I had fun, but I’ve basically orchestrated a complete feasiblity study/writing workshop/location scout for a potential fourth movie. That’s most of the work done, isn’t it? Now they’ve got no excuse!