To be honest, I didn’t really want to watch this trailer. Céline (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), the couple at the heart of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, occupy such a large space in my emotional life that, for once, I just want to ignore all the advance word on this movie and go into the theater completely in the dark about what has happened to them since we left them in Céline’s apartment nine years ago, listening to Nina Simone, a hopeful, uncertain look on Jesse’s face as he watched Céline dance and missed his flight out of Paris. (This is not an unusual feeling, apparently: Back in 2004, David Edelstein’s review for Slate was headlined “Don’t Read This Review! See Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset first.”)
But that’s not really an option if you run a culture blog; we’ve already published a very short review of the movie, which Tim Wu says is nearly perfect. So I went ahead and pressed play. And two minutes later, my expectations for this movie weren’t dimmed at all.
There are kids now, two little girls, and the movie will not take place in real time, as Before Sunset did. The music used here suggests that the distributor is trying to capitalize on the similarity between this movie’s title and its European setting to a certain surprise hit from Woody Allen a couple years back—but that surely has more to do with marketing than it does with the movie Richard Linklater has actually made.
So there are no big surprises in this trailer, which is just as well. I already had a sense that Before Midnight would delve into the difficulties of long-term romantic love, and I might have guessed that Céline would begin to think she’s “stuck with an American teenager.” We already knew from Before Sunset that the couple’s romantic backstory could be a burden to them, setting expectations that the rest of life can’t match. And of course this movie will be about the passage of time, about getting old, about memory.
But with the story of Jesse and Céline, what matters are the unexpected emotional turns that we sometimes take in conversation with each other, personal epiphanies that aren’t really the stuff of movie trailers. The important information here is that the movie will be out May 24, and everyone should go see it.