Director/Screenwriter: Richard Linklater, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
We meet Celine and Jesse nine years after their last rendezvous. Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early forties in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior
(film synopsis from sxsw.com)
WHO’S IT FOR?: Best experienced by those familiar with the characters but newbies should find some enjoyment in the latest entry of Richard Linklater’s “Before” series.
Before Midnight catches up with two of cinema’s most beloved characters, Celine and Jesse, 18 years after they first met in Vienna. If you’ve seen the previous films, you know that Before Sunset ended on a cliffhanger. Did Jesse miss his flight and stay with Celine in Paris? For those that want to be in dark going in, I will do my best to avoid any sort of plot details, however know that part of allure and majesty of this film series is watching it unfold regardless of whether you know what happens or not. In response to the characters maturation, Linklater’s filmmaking and the dialogue follow suit with conversations that are more about staying in love than falling in love. Before Midnight is a heart wrenching but lovely follow up in a series of films that treats love seriously and respectfully.
As with the last film, Linklater shares writing credit with his stars, which doesn’t consist of an actual plot in traditional terms. The action is played out in a series of long conversations viewed brilliantly through long Steadicam shots as the two walk around Greece, hang out with friends and take some much needed time off from their adult responsibilities. The interactions this time around deal more directly with personal relationships and what it takes stay in love in a richer and more satisfying context. In Before Midnight, the series has never been in a more generally relatable place and it’s astounding that with each film the writing still manages to make the developments feel spontaneous and real as if each scene is playing out right in front of you on a staircase or cafe in Greece. For some, the conversations may hit a little too close to home but I think that’s the point. Hawke and Delpy let it all out, why shouldn’t you feel the same emotions alongside them?
It’s remarkable how these two actors can simply pick up right where they left off nine years earlier and make it seem like they have been living in our reality the entire time. Part of the reason why these characters work so well is that they feel like real people with real problems that everyone goes through. In a way the film almost forces the audience to come to terms with the harsh realities of love that they themselves may be too frightened to confront. Jesse and Celine aren’t perfect people and that imperfection is what makes Hawke and Delpy so vital to every scene. A part of themselves is in each of these arguments or discussions. When it starts to get emotional, you really feel it and that’s a testament to the unwavering dedication these actors have to such brilliant and thoughtful material.
If you’ve seen the previous two films in the series you will likely get more out of it but at the same time I think this is the most accessible film out of the bunch. The content is more universally relevant to everyone while the previous films dealt with a lot of philosophy and topics best explored at a younger age. At this point it’s hard to imagine Linklater, Hawke and Delpy not continuing the series with another followup in nine years. If not, Before Midnight is a more than satisfying conclusion to one of cinema’s most enjoyable and brilliant love stories.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He’s also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.