During the first scene of Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke’s character, Jesse, answers a reporter’s question about whether Jesse ever did reunite with Celine (a question the movie’s audience surely wanted answered as well) by explaining that the answer to that would depend on whether you were a cynic, romantic or somewhere in between.
The reason for me bringing up this 8-year-old movie is that I recently learned that the “team” of Delpy/Hawke/Linklater will soon begin writing the third installment of the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset series and I immediately re-watched the two. I have in the past been ashamed to admit how much these movies touch my overly-sentimental and nerdy soul, but they still do after many viewings. I am probably reacting to that feeling that one is dating Julie Delpy when one watches, but I hope it is not that superficial.
While I have the strong desire to know whether Jesse did in fact miss his plane, I think the overall desire by me and others in the cult following is not so much these cliffhanger plot points but just wanting to spend more time with these characters. The problem that arises for me is trying to figure out what could possibly be the premise for this third installment. Firstly, you don’t have the natural title opposite which made for an easy starting point in Before Sunset. There was also some very clear questions arising from the first movie: Did they ever meet in 6 months? Do they still have strong feelings for each other? Are they willing to interrupt their current lives to give their love another chance? The questions remaining after Before Sunset would be: Does Jesse miss his plane? Does Jesse leave his family to pursue what he thinks is his one chance at love with Celine? Will their relationship work as more than two people who like to talk while they walk around European capitals?
Even if I try to dream up plot possibilities using the cynic/romantic perspective Jesse brings up, no possibility exists (in my mind) for the brief and intense meetings that seem to be the main impetus of the films. One would assume that the connective thread, the long conversations between the two lovers sharing their thoughts, emotions and philosophies with each other, would also need to be the focus of the third film for it to feel like a consistent continuation of the previous. The problem lies in that whether or not Jesse makes his plane or leaves his wife, one would assume that he and Celine do exchange phone numbers and keep in touch for the next nine years in some capacity. So you would think that they would learn much more about each other and not have that urgency to share of themselves that makes the conversations in the first two films so intense. Both my romantic and cynical sides agree that if Jesse did not give Celine a chance this time, she would not be as accommodating to listen to his blather after a 9 year absence. Of course, they might think up a way to overcome this point.
If it turns out that they did stay together after the meeting in Paris then I can’t see the third movie having any kind of urgency unless it is about them separating or that someone dies. I’m pretty sure the audience would hate them for that as the first two movies basically set us up to believe that these two belong together, happily chattering forever after. Otherwise, it would be a movie about some erudite couple approaching middle age sitting in their bathrobes talking about how nice it was that they stayed together, and “why, yes, dear. I would like some honey in my tea”. I even thought of the possibility that they would go back to the previous wife/boyfriend but would continue to carry on a clandestine affair but that is too Same Time Next Year and not believable given the intensity of their love established in the first two films.
I know this is somewhat of a pointless exercise, but I did want to share this in case there is anyone else out there with the same degree of interest in these films as myself. I really hope at least one person weighs in.