Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Director: Richard Linklater
Running Time: 109 mins
Before Midnight is an American film and the third in the Before trilogy. Nine years after their reunion in Paris, and eighteen after Vienna, Jesse and Celine spend a summer in Greece together.
For a series of films composed of little more than the same two people walking and talking, it’s quite amazing to think about how spectacular the Before trilogy is. Before Midnight, bringing that trilogy to a close, delivers the same beautifully heartfelt, minimalist drama, while yet again building on previous instalments with ever more mature and challenging emotional depth.
This trilogy may not seem like much on the surface, but the way it has evolved over its three episodes is truly incredible. From the blissful memories of falling in love in Vienna in Before Sunrise, to the fleeting but bittersweet reunion in Paris in Before Sunset, and now to the conclusion of Jesse and Celine’s story in Greece, Before Midnight feels worlds away from where the trilogy started, yet just as intimate as it has always been.
With powerfully insightful, mature and challenging emotional depth brought to life by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s spectacular screenplay, Before Midnight is still the same minimalist wonder that the series started out as.
But eighteen years on from Jesse and Celine’s blissful night in Vienna, they as people and as a pair have changed immeasurably, yet stayed the same. That complex reality, wherein people and their lives do change while remaining the same through time, is explored in riveting depth in Before Midnight, and forms the central point of conflict in this film.
Because, while the first two films avoided what might be considered more melodramatic Hollywood drama and conflict in beautiful fashion, Before Midnight tackles the struggles of a relationship, parenthood, ageing and life head on. However, it’s backed up by the memory and development that you’ve experienced through the first two films.
With that, the way in which Jesse and Celine examine their relationship both in the present and past is wholly more immersive and powerful, because you’ve seen where they’ve come from over a period of eighteen years.
Cleverly changing your perceptions of the events of previous films, as well as ingeniously filling in the gaps between episodes without heavy-handed exposition, Before Midnight is a masterful piece of work that uses so little to achieve so much.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are as wonderful together as they’ve ever been, and even though this film presents a more challenging side to their relationship, their chemistry and performances through the film’s long, long takes and dialogue sequences are nothing short of spectacular.
Before Midnight stays true to the essence of its two predecessors, remaining an honest, organic continuation of the story the trilogy has so wonderfully developed over the course of eighteen years.
Yet by boldly pushing forward into new thematic territory, the film is a fresh and worthy further exploration of Jesse and Celine’s lives. Before Midnight is not the blissful, romantic wonder of Before Sunrise, nor the bittersweet, sun-baked delight of Before Sunset. However, it completes the pair’s story in powerfully honest, undeniably challenging, but most of all satisfying fashion.
That’s not to say the film ties everything up in a nice bow. As the trilogy has been all along, Before Midnight accepts the messy reality of love and relationships, and doesn’t shy away from showcasing the real challenges that everybody who’s ever been in a relationship has had to face.
But by retaining its utterly beautiful, minimalist style, its two gorgeous lead performances, its honest viewpoint on life, and above all its desire to push the boundaries of what may seem like a simple story, Before Midnight is a spectacular conclusion to an incredible trilogy. That’s why I’m giving it an 8.1.