How this could top its predecessors was something I never imagined possible but it really does. However, age, relationship experience, and perspectives will factor in whether this is the best of the Before films thus far. Personally, this one felt the most mature of the three and easily the more complicated.
What I loved more than anything about Midnight is how it portrays humans as very complicated creatures. The film oozes with this sentiment from the fantastic dinner conversation through to the heartbreaking conversation towards the finale. It also squashes the notion of romantic, idealised love that was highly evident in the first film (less so in the second). This time around, the main characters are together and so that honeymoon period is over and the realities settle in. There are some downright heartbreaking moments, as there always have been in the Before films but this time it's from the perspective of being together beyond that honeymoon period.
I thought Jesse was a more rounded, lively character this time around than he was in Sunset but his situation had changed since then. Celine is still such a strong spirit and I think Julie Delpy does an amazing job of showing the complexity of her character. It's a very difficult role to play because essentially both characters are playing what it means to be modern versions of men and women. So to juggle that responsibility without coming across as anything other than perfect is extremely difficult. I think they both nail it. It's easy to say one of the characters is "this" or "that" but at the end of the day, no one is perfect and the film hits home on that front perfectly.
In some ways I think Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke should leave this beautiful little trilogy as is after the ending we get with Midnight. It feels like the arc is complete when it comes to the relationship between these two characters. That said, due to the quality of each film in the series so far, I get a feeling that another would be just as classic as what has come before.
A modern masterpiece in filmmaking, this is easily my favourite film of the year, perhaps in the past five years.