Before Sunset ends on one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time. Strangers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) had spent That One Perfect Night Together in Vienna in the previous film, Before Sunrise. They pledged to meet again in six months, but the sequel, Before Sunset, reveals that Celine never showed up. It’s now nine years later, and she tracks down Jesse, who has become an author, at his book reading in Paris. They share an afternoon together, a moment snatched before Jesse’s flight back to the U.S.—and his wife and child. The film ends with him sprawled in a chair in Celine’s apartment, as she coos à la Nina Simone: “Baby, you’re gonna miss that plane.” “I know,” he says.
“So many people came up to us and asked what happened,” Delpy, 43, laughs. Another nine years later, Before Midnight is our answer: Paris-based Celine and Jesse are now parents to nine-year-old twins and spending the summer on a Greek island, as Celine ponders a career change and Jesse tries to connect with his teen son from his first marriage.
Like their Oscar-nominated Before Sunset script before it, Delpy, Hawke and director Richard Linklater wrote Before Midnight together, with the no-bullshit shorthand that grows between old friends. “If I didn’t like something that someone wrote, I said it. We were constantly just throwing ‘This is shit!’ at each other. We’re not very careful, we don’t get offended easily,” Delpy says. “If someone tells me it’s bad, I say, ‘Whatever, let’s change it.’ We don’t have time to get our egos in the way.”
The threesome tore through the script and rehearsal in Greece in a couple of months in 2012, location scouting along the way. Like Vienna and Paris before it, Greece is this film’s third co-star, the dusty countryside and cerulean sea a beautiful counterpoint to the near-painful realism of Celine and Jesse’s still-fraught relationship. “The hardest parts are the natural moments where it seems like nothing’s really happening,” says Delpy. “You have to learn the lines perfectly and you can’t change a word, and you have to pretend that you’re just talking. We do a movie every nine years because it takes us nine years to recover!”