‘Before Midnight’ Review: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke Meet Impossible Expectations [Sundance 2013]
Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 by Germain Lussier
With Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, director Richard Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy created two amazing films about love, romance, relationships and fate. Films that were exceedingly simple visually, but incredibly powerful and complex in character, dialogue and performance. The first began the tale of an American named Jesse (Hawke) and a French woman named Celine (Delpy) who met on a train and fell in love while spending a day together in Vienna. The next was shot and set nine years later, and showed the couple rekindling the relationship during an encounter in Paris. Before Midnight takes place nine years after that, and continues the story of these two characters.
Since the film just premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and much of it remains a mystery, we’ll start with this: Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have created a complex, engaging and wholly satisfying third entry into this series. To explain more about it would mean to get into a few small spoilers, and we’ll do that after the jump. But if you wish to remain unspoiled, know that Before Midnight lives up to your wildest expectations of what the film could be. It’s among the best third films in a trilogy ever.
The rest of the article contains minor spoilers for Before Midnight.
Before Midnight primarily focuses on the end of a six week vacation Jesse and Celine are spending in Greece. Yes, they’re now together and have two kids. The events of the previous film lead Jesse to get a divorce and move to Europe, but in doing so he was forced to leave behind his other son, Henry. Jesse now only sees Henry on occasion and his guilt about that gets the narrative rolling.
The film is composed of about six major scenes and in these scenes Jesse and Celine will discuss everything. Their past, their future, their kids, their flaws and expectations. Sex, love, death, it’s all in there. And all of it seems to be circling the major issue that Jesse wants to spend more time with his son and Celine is scared of what that could mean for the two of them.
Over the course of the film the emotions and stakes of this conversation continue to rise, which makes Before Midnight feel more weighty than the previous entries. Everything that’s said somehow feels so significant now that the courting is over. These are simply two adults working out their issues. Add a slight tension on top of that and you’ve got something special. One moment you’re contemplating art or masculinity, the next their relationship is on the brink.
That’s derived from three things: the writing and the two lead performances. Everything in the movie feels incredibly rich, real and unscripted when it’s actually anything but (the director and two stars co-wrote). Also, this being their third time around, Delpy and Hawke are so beyond comfortable together you’d swear they’re actually a couple. Linklater’s camera is simply there to capture their electric chemistry, giving the film a consistant vibrancy.
For Before Midnight to basically only be two characters talking, for a third time, and to remain so engaging is a triumph. One can only hope we see Jesse and Celine again in 2022.
/Film rating: 9 out of 10