Before Sunset (2004) is an independent American film by Richard Linklater starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Both actors have also co-written the scenario. Having met nine years previously as students on a train journey between Budapest and Vienna but without exchanging addresses or phone numbers (see the 1995 prequel Before Sunrise), American writer Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French environmental activist Céline (Julie Delpy) meet again in Paris at Jesse’s latest book launch. But as Jesse has a plane to catch to return home to the United States, the protagonists only have one hour to catch up with their respective lives.
The whole film revolves around this conversation constrained by time as Jesse and Céline amble through the streets of Paris one late afternoon. Then there is this unexpected little waltz (composed by Julie Delpy) towards the end of the film which seems to crystallise Céline’s feelings for Jesse. Julie Delpy is not a professional singer, but it is the spontaneity of the song which generates an element of surprise and paves the way for an open ending.
What is really interesting with these two films is that both actors have aged at the same time as their characters. They first met in their early twenties in Before Sunrise. The same characters/actors meet again nine years later in Before Sunset. The positive reviews at the time and the enduring appeal of both films over the years have encouraged the trio to write a sequel. Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight picks up the same story nine years on and premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It features of course Jesse/Ethan Hawke and Céline/Julie Delpy, now in their early forties. As it stands, Richard Linklater hasn’t ruled out a fourth instalment.