before midnight

Two of the most romantic films of all time are set to become part of a trilogy with the release of Before Midnight, a follow-up to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. It will be Richard Linklater’s third film about the fleeting romance of Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

In the first two instalments, filmed and set nine years apart, Hawke’s travelling American met a young French woman played by Delpy, on a train in Vienna, where the two enjoyed a fleeting romance before meeting again by chance in Paris in the second film. Both films set a benchmark in naturalistic – often awkward, but achingly sweet – portrayals of boy-girl relationships happening in real time.

While the ending of Before Sunset was ambiguous – viewers were left to wonder whether Jesse would stay on in Paris to sweep his one-time lover away from her husband as he sat seductively gazing at her from a chaise lounge – the new movie makes clear exactly what happened.

Without giving too much away, Jesse and Celine find themselves considering their futures on a sun-kissed Greek island, with kids and marriages (we won’t say whose) weighing them down. The recently released stills from the set – leaked on Valentine’s Day, naturally – show Hawke and Delpy enjoying some intimate moments together in a familiarly lush setting.

With cinemas full of second-rate romance flicks undoubtedly inspired by Linklater’s classics, news of a third instalment can’t come soon enough. And the early reviews suggest it won’t disappoint. Screenings at the Berlinale film festival this month drew cheers from the crowd of discerning industry insiders, who were once again charmed by the onscreen chemistry of the two stars.

Even better news is that Delpy and Hawke would like to make the series a quartet. Although, given the time between the first three films, it will be a good few years  before we see them as Celine and Jesse again. By then, who knows what will have happened to one of cinema’s most iconic couples.

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