Before Sunset Ending Explained: Baby, You Are Gonna Miss That Plane

In the 1990s, a group of young, creative filmmakers supplied audiences with a fresh style of filmmaking. While Quentin Tarantino's violent and gory "Reservoir Dogs" helped usher in the indie movement of the '90s, a large portion of the decade's indie films were introspective, conversational films centered around relatable characters and slices of life stories, including Richard Linklater's movies.

The young filmmaker gained mainstream attention with the release of his 1991 super-indie film "Slackers." The movie refuses to choose a protagonist or plot and instead bounces around, offering audiences a smorgasbord of what the streets of Austin, Texas, have to offer. Conspiracy theorists, arguing couples, street musicians, and a handful of other characters momentarily fill the screen before the camera loses interest and focuses on someone else. Linklater's earliest films reveal his fascination with ordinary people and how their lives interact with others.

Linklater's next film, "Dazed and Confused," followed a group of teenagers through their last day of school and their last high school party. Once again, Linklater featured a large cast that consisted of stoners, jocks, and a 20-something hanger-on that can be found in any American high school, and used them to comment on the average teenage experience. Instead of creating a cliched celebration of adolescents or high school, "Dazed and Confused" explores the transitional phase between adolescence and adulthood through the eyes of apathetic, and confused teenagers, who aren't afraid to spit in the face of sentimentality.

In his 2004 film, "Before Sunset," Linklater again took a common occurrence, a chance meeting in a bookstore, and used it to explore the effects of adulthood, the potential importance of everyday events, and the intersection of different characters' experiences.

Impulse and freedom in Before Sunset

It would be difficult to talk about "Before Sunset" without discussing the first film in the trilogy, "Before Sunrise." In 1995, Linklater introduced audiences to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), two 20-somethings on a train who strike up a conversation and decide to spend one unforgettable night wandering Vienna together. Instead of making another cliche romance seen countless times a year, Linklater uses the romantic premise to explore the enduring optimism of young love.

As Celine and Jesse wander Vienna, their discussions evolve from scientific and philosophical theories to intimate discussions about their own pasts and possible futures. With each discussion, the two young travelers reveal more and more of themselves and fall in love. Once again, despite the use of a meet-cute, Linklater refuses to embrace cliche. In an attempt to think with their adult heads and not their adolescent hearts, Celine and Jesse try to avoid any potential heartbreak by agreeing to enjoy their night together and go their separate ways.

At the end of the film, the two young lovers try to say goodbye forever, but find it too hard to let go. In a fit of youthful optimism, they agree to meet in Vienna in six months. The movie ended with the two going their separate ways, and the audience was left to create their own ending. Youthful optimists believed they met again and lived happily ever after, while seasoned pessimists assumed life got in the way and the two never reconnected.

Initially intended as a standalone movie with a "choose your own adventure" ending, Linklater returned to Jesse and Celine in 2004 to continue their story.

Realism and disappointment Before Sunset

The sequel, "Before Sunset," confirms the pessimists' predictions when it reveals that the lovers never reconnected. The film opens with a 30-something Jesse, in a French bookstore, promoting his autobiographical novel about his night with Celine. Of all the bookstores in all the world, Celine walks into that one, and the two reconnect.

It's probably a coincidence that Jesse's plugging his book at Celine's favorite bookstore, but it's difficult not to celebrate the simple circumstances that bring the two characters together. If they aren't careful, rational audiences might begin to believe in destiny and eternal love, but Linklater injects hard reality into the story. "Before Sunrise" focused on two precocious, and optimistic youngsters, but "Before Sunset" explores an older, arguably wiser, and jaded side of the characters.

In retrospect, Jesse and Celine decide it was ridiculous that they never exchanged surnames or phone numbers, forgetting how thrilling and liberating the night was for their younger selves. The two adults no longer understand the impulsivity of youth that led them to spend an unforgettable night together and choose to focus on the irrationality of the decision. The unbridled freedom and optimism of love that audiences saw in the first film is notably absent in the follow-up. Instead, Linklater uses this film to comment on the negative effects of adulthood, which often discourages people from taking risks, enjoying fleeting moments, and being honest with others.

As adults, Jesse and Celine find it difficult to communicate with significant others, even though they were able to easily open up to each other years earlier. Their lives and experiences have caused them to put up walls and close themselves off from others, but they are still capable of connecting with each other, which leads to a potentially hopeful or heartbreaking ending.

Potential hope and heartbreak

As we learn in the first film, Celine and Jesse have a deep, emotional connection, but can it last? Will their pessimistic pasts and difficulty communicating get in the way of their happily ever after? Or can they reignite the optimism and hope within each other?

At the end of "Before Sunset," Jesse is in Celine's apartment, watching her dance like Nina Simone, with no intention of ever leaving her again. "Baby, you are gonna miss that plane," Celine says, quoting the song. "I know," Jesse replies, smiling. 

For a fleeting moment, the two characters recapture the youthful excitement of new love, and connection, but will it last? For youthful optimists and hopeless romantics, the answer is yes, while jaded adults who have experienced failed relationships and broken dreams will say no. Again, Linklater left the choice to you, or you can watch the last film in the trilogy, "Before Midnight" to find out.