Title: Before Midnight
Director(s): Richard Linklater
Release Year: 2013
I would like to make a brief note and say that I recommend seeing this movie with as little knowledge about the plot as possible. While this movie is hard to spoil as it comes across as plot-less, I would rather not give away anything in this review to someone who has no idea what they are about to walk into after viewing the first two films; Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (and I will be spoiling those movies.) I do not plan to give away any plot developments within the film that is after the first 10 minutes or so but I must do this to summarize the film and continue along with what I thought (which ironically is spoiled within the title.) But before anyone sees this movie, I would advise them to do two things:
1) Watch Before Sunrise
2) Watch Before Sunset
Life seems to work in the most mysterious ways. When Jesse (Ethan Hawke) met Celine (Julie Delpy) met 18 years earlier, a connection had been made that a person could never expect to last. They walked across the streets of Vienna while discussing life and philosophies, perfectly displaying the effects of two strangers creating a night that they will never forget. 9 years after their first encounter, they reunite in Paris and pick up right where they left off. When you think you’ll never see someone again, it’s hard not to make rash decisions and push yourself out there and do something you’ve never done before. Then you see them after almost a decade and you can’t just let the opportunity pass you by. And that’s where Before Sunset left us.
For the few of you out there who watched the Before series from the very beginning, you’ve helped me learn what empathy is. I could hardly wait another day after finally watching Before Sunset to find out what would happen with Jesse and Celine, let alone 9 whole years. That’s even without knowing whether there would be another film to be made. But thankfully we all finally found the two of them in what looks to be the tail end of a beautiful summer in Greece with fellow writers and their lovers. The film opens to Jesse saying goodbye to his son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) at the airport so he can go home to his mother whom Jesse had left behind for Celine all those years earlier. Hank is about to leave for the plane leaving Jesse with a disconnect to his son that he feels he wouldn’t have had, had he went back home but his son tells him that he had the best summer of his life. From here on out, the story unfolds into the multi-layered dialogue and beautiful scenery we are all familiar with.
Richard Linklater has always shown an interest in characters talking. Not just to move the plot forward or for any other purpose than to give the audience an idea at who this person is or in the case of Before Midnight, who they’ve become. Nothing has changed here and thankfully it still has that brilliant and witty feel to the writing without sacrificing any of the real life drama and humour. The script written by Linklater, Delpy and Hawke is as close to perfection as I think we’re going to get this year (and if we miss out on another Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, that would probably be the biggest disappointment.) The beauty of Linklater’s direction is that it feels like there isn’t anything except Jesse and Celine in front of us. There are no jarring stylistic devices or camera techniques, just two people on a journey.
If there is anything that carries the movie (aside from the previously mentioned script) is our two leads. Yes, Delpy and Hawke have played these characters 3 times in the last 18 years but there’s something impressive about evolving Jesse and Celine without compromising the reality and nature of who these people are. From naive 20-somethings, to 30-somethings who feel a little weathered down to where they are in their lives now, it always attracts the eloquence of their performances and this series really wouldn’t work without these two great actors. The humor of Jesse and sternness of Celine comes together without ever falling into the territory of caricatures and cliché. Even the supporting actors featuring relative unknowns are all welcome presences (among them being Athina Rachel Tsangari and Ariane Labed, writer/director and star of “Attenberg”, the brilliant and disturbing but unconnected spiritual successor to the other Lynch-ian Greek film, Dogtooth.) The actors and setting just breathe a world which feels real and never gives you any reason to bring out your suspension of disbelief mindset.
Ideas and regret seems to carry a lot of weight within this installment and while Before Midnight is the most depressing movie of the trilogy, it also shows the audience the next and most necessary step of Jesse and Celine’s relationship. Life always has its twists and turns but to predict what comes next is nearly impossible and that is how I felt watching it. I always had a feeling what would happen next but it neither mattered or gave into my predictions. The film is not about what drama will come next and whether someone will come between them but rather how these problems came about and the consequences of our actions and words. You can always seize the moment and get the one thing you’ve always wanted; it’s maintaining it, that’s the hard part.