Before Midnight (2013)
Rated – R
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
This review contains some spoilers.
There is something so rare going on in Before Midnight (along with its predecessors Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) that makes something that feels so real seem like a dream. Long, unedited shots of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walking and talking. An extended dinner scene with characters we know nothing about. A heated argument where you really don’t know how or when it’s going to end. Richard Linklater and his co-stars have created something incredibly magical in Before Midnight.
In the prior movies, love was the main topic of discussion as the two 20-something-year-old strangers get off a train together just on the chance that they both find each other interesting. Love is still in the air when they meet nine years later in Before Sunset, but now we see them again another nine years later and they’re 41 years old. The end of Before Sunset left you wondering if they were going to give each other a shot. If there were never a sequel, it would’ve been perfect, but at the same time I’m more than pleased that there is a sequel. Before Midnight answers the questions at the end of the first scene, showing Celine waiting for Jesse at the airport with their twins sleeping in the backseat.
Driven by some of the best dialogue in any film, Before Midnight concentrates on life, but also about how time and love changes through the years between Jesse and Celine. They’re together and have spent almost the last decade with each other, but the honeymoon phase is over and real life has taken a toll of them. No longer can they just bat their eyes at each other and melt their hearts with a smile. They really test each other to how much they actually love and care for one another.
If you’re looking for a Hollywood version of a couple’s conversation and argument, you’re not going to find one here. Everything is just right. During the scene at the hotel, their moment of romance is interrupted by the conflicting thoughts in each others’ minds. The mood is ruined and what follows is a passionate fight that to some might feel a bit too intense, but to others will feel just like home. It’s a powerful extended scene and whether you can see yourself walking in their shoes or not, there’s no doubt you at least can relate to them one way or another. And that’s the brilliance in Before Midnight.
Still, Jesse and Celine have come a long way since we first saw them walking the streets of Vienna. No longer naive and impressionable, these two now have a lot of responsibilities on their plates. Their fight is so heated because of how the result can alter their lives forever. You might say this isn’t a new topic for movies to tackle, but there are only few films who have executed it as well.
Will there be another Before film nine years later? Each film has gotten darker and if they continue on, I can’t imagine them shying away from the discussion of death. But for right now, Celine and Jesse compliment each other so well that they don’t allow their differences to get in their way. The first two films ended on a question. Will they actually see each other again? Will Jesse leave to make his plane? But Before Midnight ends on an uplifting note after their intense fight. That puts me at ease for the time being that they’re going to be together for a long time, but then again who knows where they’ll be in nine years.