Before Midnight Directed by: Richard Linklater Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 14, 2013
PLOT: We meet Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) nine years later in Greece. It's been almost 20 years since the two met on a train bound for Vienna, and many things have changed in their lives.
WHO'S IT FOR? Anyone who craves authenticity in their characters. Obviously fans of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset should seek this film out, but should realize this is a little less fairy tale, and at times a little more uncomfortable.
I've decided to make this film review almost completely SPOILER FREE. Even though we learn key details about Jesse and Celine about seven minutes into the film, I am not going to reveal them here. I'd rather you discover them on your own when watching this movie. I hope you still enjoy this review.
Before I get to the review, let me also explain how you should ideally be watching these films. Remember this is ideally. The most important thing is simply to watch these films.
Before Sunrise: Watch it in college, when you believe the world is yours to own. Be sure to have a hopeful romance sitting by your side.
Before Sunset: View this one when you are at some sort of life crossroads. Make sure to give at least five years in between this film and Sunrise. If you can, watch it with the one you are going to marry.
Before Midnight: Sit down for this one when you're officially set in your ways with your partner. If you have children, even better. From my perspective, being 36, with my partner for 10+ years, and now with our first child, it was the perfect time for me to watch this movie.
The Before trilogy is a vacation for me. I am taken away, and it is never for long enough. Good movies typically make me love my wife more, and now my son. That's what a good escape to a foreign country does as well. With all of that being said, I believe that if the world has one job right now it is to make sure Linklater, Hawke and Delpy live long enough in order for us to get at least three more Before films. If we have two jobs: world peace.
We are reunited with Jesse and Celine at the airport in Greece, and even before we realize it is the perfect setting for another walking and talking adventure, I'm amazed at the casual, technical superiority Linklater shows as a filmmaker. There is an extraordinary set of single takes (there is at least one cut) in a car ride that features talk of children, careers, and most importantly, aging apples.
Up next is a Greece villa with more exploring conversations. Jesse and Celine aren't alone though. Now we have a cast of characters including a worldly author played by Walter Lassally, as well as a carefree couple played by Athina Rachel Tsangari and Panos Koronis. With all of them together, especially at a dinner that I didn't want to end, we hear about different aspects of love. Listening to a young couple talk of Skyping every day to fight through long-distance makes me immediately feel old, but gives a fantastic glimpse of moments that could be foreign to you.
Eventually we are left alone with Jesse and Celine. It feels like a staged play in the best way possible. At first when they are on a long walk, it seems a little too easy for them to pick up where we've seen them leave off in Before Sunrise, and luckily they make reference to it. Being in your early 40s should change your life perspective, and I genuinely appreciate how Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have aged these characters. While the first two films could be considered romantic, I believe this one is, but it is also more familiar in the real-life decisions that have to be made about careers, children, location, life and love. My heart aches at times, and that is because I care so much about this fictional couple, because it feels so personally connected to my life. Jesse is either like me, possesses some of my worst qualities, or someone I aspire to be. It is my favorite Hawke character besides Todd Anderson. Delpy continues to prove she is an absolutely beautiful woman willing to confidently age on screen. She has a little more heavy emotional burdens in this film and pulls them off with perfection.
I genuinely feel lucky to have these movies. Now I (hopefully) have to wait another nine years to see where we are at with Jesse and Celine. I'm hoping it's for a wedding, but not their own.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10