Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Manager
It’s impossible to discuss Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight without invoking its two predecessors, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The Before series represents a departure from Linklater’s other highly regarded work (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly) and displays the director’s tenacity and flair for character development. Additionally, it’s arguably the most ambitious love story portrayed in cinema in decades, chronicling Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse’s (Ethan Hawke) nearly 20-year on-and-off relationship.
Before Sunrise premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and immediately endeared audiences to the youthful couple, who meet on a train en route to Vienna. What appears initially to be nothing more than a glib encounter quickly progresses into a night of candid conversation and visceral connection between Jessie and Celine. Before Sunset reunites the pair nine years later in Paris, and Before Midnight sets the couple in Greece nearly two decades after their initial encounter. And while each film in the series is marked by Linklater’s nuanced characters and meticulous dialogue, there is a beauty in the transformation of Hawke’s and Delpy’s characters despite the significant gaps in both narrative and real time.
It seems a near impossibilty for a trilogy to reach its apex with its first film, only to incrementally improve with its following two efforts, but that’s the reality of the Before series.
- Before Midnight is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 86th Academy Awards.
- Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Midnight both made their premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.
- Richard Linklater has screened a total of eight feature films at the Festival.