It’s hard to discuss Before Midnight without referencing the previous films. As such, please be warned the following contains spoilers.
Before Midnight allows us to once more dip our toes into the lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) who stole our hearts in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. After the events of nine years previously in Sunset, the transatlantic couple are holidaying in Greece with their two children and numerous friends. Jesse is still making waves as a writer, having written another book based on his relationship with Celine. She meanwhile has become unsure of what to do with and is planning a career change.
The wonder and charm of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy is how, after the setup of Sunrise, Sunset was been like dropping in on old friends. We delighted in their company and waited eagerly for them to fill us in on what they’d been up to. Midnight has that same feeling, but it’s a more somber affair. Celine’s optimism has appeared to have been worn away, with a suggestion that she sees herself failing to live up to the Celine in Jesse’s novels. When we’re first reintroduced to Jesse, he is packing his son from his first relationship back to his ex-wife. Missing his plane in Sunset was a pleasurable mistake for Jesse, but it’s clear he worries about the effect his divorce has had on his son. These are emotionally not the same people we met all those years ago. The mistakes and worries of life that could be swept away by the follies of youth, have come home to roost.
It probably goes without saying, but Delpy and Hawke are superb. Previously we were party to Jesse and Celine exploring each other physically and mentally; laying themselves open to each other and revealing their hopes and fears. In Midnight, during Linklater’s obligatory real time conversations, they begin to chip away at each other’s defences. Frustrated with themselves, they use their intimate knowledge of each other to make a comment here or a dig there. It’s the kind of raw dialogue you can only have with someone you care, or have cared, for deeply. The bitter comfort of knowing you may win this fight, because you know the cheat codes. And the fact it hurts us to watch them act this way is a testament to what Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have achieved. We are fully committed to this relationship, even if Jesse and Celine appear not to be.
Before Midnight is a perfect example of filmmaking, with strong performances and an insightful script. Get all three films, take the evening off and wallow in cinema at it’s finest.