Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★★

Included In Lists:
Great Movies
Strong Performances - Julie Delpy
Criterion Collection - #859

Wrapped within time frames of Richard Linklater’s first two entries into what has surprisingly become a trilogy, is an air of romance and passion, initially with the backdrop of Vienna and later Paris, showcasing these two individuals wanting to connect, with barriers between them that would make such a magical outcome seemingly impossible or extremely difficult. Both instances were capsules in their lives that would have been a treasured memory that never truly thrived, as despite the resolution that came about in ‘Sunset’, there was still an air of ambiguity, an aura of wishful thinking that they have gone the distance.

With the release of Before Midnight, such ambiguity becomes dissolved as we travel nine years into the future, both married with twins; Jesse, a successful writer and trying to make time for his son from his previous marriage, while Celine is climbing up the career ladder while also holding the family fort. The film revolves around their vacation in the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, all demonstrated close to real time, witnessing conversations between the two that naturally reveals their current positioning nine years later.

As expected from the third rendition of the series, it takes on the familiar trademarks of long takes, characters intimately walking and talking, engaging in philosophical, introspective and confronting conversations; we gain a sense of who they are at that given point in time, with Linklater and the two actors - who also served as writers for the film - demonstrating the evolution of their relationship within the context of their history as a couple, their place in this period of the 21st century, and the aspirations that they hope for the journey ahead. Out of the entire trilogy, much like the characters themselves, Before Midnight is by far the most thoughtful, challenging, and visceral of the bunch, with conversations no longer centred around hopeful outcomes but rather of painful regrets and joyful reflections, reinforcing the graceful beauty and suffering weight that comes with such a relationship.

Before Midnight provides a maturity that not only enriches the performances of its loveable cast but also provides greater perspective on the films that came before it. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy truly give it their all and though they have shown signs of age, as the film goes through the usual motions, we swiftly find ourselves seeing them almost as they were when they first encountered one another in Vienna. Momentum and energy crackles with every spoken word, every single glance, and every delicate touch; the way they interact and the way they utilise the space between them are done so with such naturalism and grace that it becomes difficult to distinguish them from their real personas, convinced that Jesse and Celine are their truest forms.

I am enamoured with this film, arguably more so than what Linklater has previously provided for the duo, creating a portrait of this stage of their relationship, almost as if he pulled from the deepest and intimate elements of romance and marriage and transferred them to the screen as they were; raw and pure. I am surprised that I was able to even find the words in compiling this review, as such a film would have left me dazed and wrecked for days.

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