Perusing today’s multiplex and streaming offerings, no one in their right mind would ever say that we need more sequels. But as always, there is one exception to the rule, and in this case the exception is that we need another movie in the Before series as soon as possible. These collaborations between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy have historically arrived about nine years apart from one another, and guess what was nine years ago? Before Midnight.
I need to know what Jesse and Celine are up to after their explosive vacation in Greece. Did they actually stay together or did they get a divorce? How is Jesse’s relationship with his first kid going? Which beautiful European city are they contemplating the meaning of life and love in now?
Earlier this year, Hawke spoke about a hypothetical fourth Before movie, telling GQ that he, Linklater, and Delpy “constantly daydream about a possible right idea.”
“Like, the reason why the first three happened so organically is we all mysteriously wanted to write the same movie. But we've never had the same idea [for a fourth],” he told the magazine. “And we feel like we don't want to pour any water in the beer. You wouldn't want to make a bad fourth one.”
As a devoted fan, I too would not want to pour any water in the beer. Luckily though, I have a full bar of delicious craft beer on tap for these three. Some people might call this “fanfiction,” but I prefer to think of it as providing a helpful service in the form of a few jumping off points for these very busy people. All I ask is for a “Story By” credit. So if Richard Linklater needs a break from the 20-year shoot for his Merrily We Roll Along adaptation starring Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt, here are some ideas.
Jesse and Céline are divorced. I know, it’s very sad, but this is the way things go sometimes. They haven’t seen each other in years, but reunite in London to attend the twins’ graduation from Cambridge. They have all planned on meeting for tea the day before the ceremony, but the twins are nowhere to be found. The estranged couple is forced to sit together at high tea, talk about where their lives have gone, and why their marriage really fell apart (Jesse cheated, but it’s more complicated than that). This all takes place in real time, and is just an 85-minute conversation between these two à la My Dinner with Andre. At the end, they’ve settled back into their comfortable groove, and the twins finally show up (the tube workers were on strike and their phones died!). Jesse and Céline part ways amicably.
The first stateside installment of the series, this one finds Jesse and Céline in Chicago for Hank’s funeral. Again, this is very sad, but sometimes your son from your first marriage dies young because of a drunk driving accident. If these movies are about one thing it’s about how life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Jesse is supposed to deliver the eulogy, but he hasn’t been able to focus on writing it. Céline suggests they go on a walk to clear his head, and the two set off to walk alongside Lake Michigan. They marvel at The Bean, they go to the Art Institute and talk about Edward Hopper, and eventually they talk about how Jesse was kind of an absent father. This one is about our relationship to our parents and how it is always a little bit traumatic. It is also the one that finally wins these three the Oscar for screenwriting.
They’re back in France, baby. Céline is retiring from her job working for the French government, and there’s going to be a big party for her in a couple hours. Jesse said he would do all the party planning, but he does not actually have the skills for that. He and Céline walk through Paris — much like they did in Before Sunset — gathering up all the wine and cheese and bread they’ll need for the party. In doing so, they start talking about what they’ll do now that the kids are out of the house and Céline isn’t working anymore. He still wants them to move to America for a bit, and she wants to travel to Asia and Africa. They get into a huge fight about money at the boulangerie, and this time Jesse threatens to leave, storming out. Céline walks around by herself for a while, running into an old lover along the way. When she gets back to their apartment, Jesse is baking a cake for the party. As always, they remember why they’re together in the first place.