Before Midnight is the 3rd and possibly final addition to Richard Linklater’s amazing series about the journey and relationship of Jessie (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). In Before Sunrise we see them meet on a chance encounter and fall in love. In Before Sunset we see them reconnect for the first time and look back on that fateful encounter and see how it changed their lives, and try to figure out the next step. Before Midnight picks up nine years after the events of Before Sunset, and it may just be the best film yet in a series of near perfect romantic masterpieces.
The series has worked because of how real it feels. Richard Linklater does a great job directing these films, creating something that just feels natural and human. He lets dialogue run free, focusing hard on his characters insight and personalities. He lets the camera sit in on these conversations as if we are right there with them. This allows for some unbelievable film-making that puts you right into the heart and soul of this world. After all this time you feel like you know Jessie and Celine, and that’s a credit to how grounded Linklater has made this series.
If you don’t want to know anything about the status of their relationship in this film, please just stop reading here. Come back after you see it.
We meet up with Jessie and Celine nine years after the events of Before Sunset. Unlike the nine years that separated them between Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, they’ve been together for nine years in Europe and created twin girls together. Jessie has separated from his now ex-wife, and this has left a strain on his relationship with his son, Hank. Jessie made the decision to create a new life with Celine and has to live with the implications of this with Hank. After dropping him off at the airport in the film’s opening scene, Jessie is really affected by the relationship with the son, and this soon affects the rest of their vacation in Greece which is coming to a end.
The honeymoon ended a long time ago for our lovers. They’ve come a long way since they first fell in love and have become older, more mature in ways, and at the same time just as immature. There’s hints of bitterness and regret in their conversations, which are framed in similar ways as the previous films, just in a much bleaker manner. Having to send off Hank to his mother causes Jessie to sour and soon it opens up to flood gates for all that has been boiling between their relationship over all these years to spill out.
This series is built around fantastic dialogue, with heavy reliance on a sharp script. The film was once again penned by Linklater along with his two stars, Hawke & Deply. Who better to tap into the mind of these characters than the ones who have spent countless hours as them, and years reflecting on them? They are able to find deep insight into the minds of Jessie & Celine, possibly even bringing up parts of their own private experience with relationships into the mix. It’s so easy to get lost into the conversations that these characters have, it’s all built so smooth and seems so real.
It’s not all fun and games though. Eventually all the tension and overhang from the bitterness and regret over the past few years culminates and spills over the top in the film’s climax. With one passive aggressive comment, things go south for them while locked up in a hotel room together on what’s supposed to be a relaxing final night on vacation. Jessie & Celine come to brutal realizations about where their relationship has gone, and it’s not pretty. They fling insults at each other at a whiplash pace, some of them are too brutal yet funny that it becomes hard not to laugh. This is intentional, as there had to be some humor interjected to this scene in order to keep you from sliding into deep depression while watching it all unravel. It’s an unforgettable scene that the film will no doubt be remembered by. But for me, the one scene I won’t forget is the final scene where Jessie makes one final romantic pitch to try and salvage things. It’s a beautiful scene and its the credit of Hawke who gives the performance of a lifetime that needs to be submitted come Oscar time.
With that said, both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy continue to impress in this series, giving performances that are riveting from start to finish, showing dynamic range and passion that you can’t buy. Both of them are every bit award deserving as one can be. I hope the Oscar will recognize this films talents come next year, as this is not only the best movie of 2013 so far, but arguably the best installment in a truly terrific trilogy. Not sure if it will be the last one, but if it is, there’s no doubt that Before Midnight is a perfect closer. It’s as real as a film about romance can get, and a true revelation for anyone who is looking to see what can happen over a span of a lifetime in love. It’s not always pretty, but it sure is real.