Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in preparation for my viewing of this movie tonight. I loved them as much as I always had and I was trying to center on reasons why. The first one is a brilliantly written script that's really just about awesome conversations and two people that have good chemistry.

The second one could have done the same thing, but it's a sequel, so there has to be a game changer. The conversations are good, maybe not as quite as good as the first one, but they're no longer talking about things in such broad terms. They philosophize, but they're older now, so there's more talking about politics, but what really sells it is the connection it later brings back to the first movie. There's regret and pain based on that one day where they were suppose to meet, but didn't. Just about the point where we may feel like we're getting bored with these two talking, they start filling in the holes in their unique 9-year relationship and we're left with another cliff hanger.

Which brings us to Before Midnight. I didn't briefly summarize my thoughts on the first movie to have a good intro, but instead I was thinking about how certain elements had to be introduced to the second movie to keep it fresh, and I was wondering how they were going to add a third element to this movie. Were they even going to?

Big surprise, it turns out they did have an affair. Much more interesting is that they've been together all this time. No longer are these movies a complete chronicle of their relationship together; we've missed a lot, and we're waiting to find out what. I think one of the most brilliant scenes in this movie was the very first one. It's short, but genius. He's asking questions of his son, and he's getting one word answers. Finally, he says something sarcastic like "you're a wonderful conversationalist." We can project many things about his character from the 3 hours that we've spent with him, but the only thing we can attest to from pure fact is that he likes to talk and that he's great at it with Celine. So here he is not being able to communicate with his son, and BAM, we know right away that this runs deep and it's a major problem. Sure, one could come up with this assumption if this kind of scene was in some different, normal movie, but here it really packs a punch. And sure enough, this IS very important.

The car conversation is a bit average and really serves as exposition to the big fight near the end. Actually, the humor in this scene is probably its main highlight. Then comes, what to me was the down point of the movie, the dinner conversation. This is probably a personal complaint, but I did NOT want to hear these two talking to other people. I don't care about other people. This felt like an above-average Woody Allen scene. I was really worried at this point.

But then it gets so very good. The thing that was always looming, the idea about Chicago, slowly begins to come back in their walk through the city. There's also a lot of focus on death. There was some talk of death in the other movies, but it felt much heavier in this one. In fact, for the whole movie I was REALLY worried that Celine was going to be killed. In retrospect, that was stupid, it doesn't fit these movies at all. Then again, she talked about her own death so much, she joked about Greek tragedies, and most of all, right after this point, they zoomed in on her slicing up a tomato. Was I suppose to worry? Did I make this up in my head?

Then we get to the really juicy scene. A fight that's so big it might end their marriage. Just wonderfully acted and written, even in comparison to everything else. There was an interesting touch for Jesse to look at spots around the room where they were sitting. This is a recreation of a montage near the end of Before Sunrise where they showed all the places they had been. It was a great way to show him being retrospective and telling us that he's wondering "how did I get here?" (There's also a scene later near the water where they're not talking and playing with eye contact. This is in all 3 movies.)

I really liked the final scene near the water, but it saddened me a bit. The other two movies ended with a "what's next?" cliffhanger, and this one really didn't. This messes up the pattern but it also worries me that there won't be any more movies. Sure, there's the question on how long their marriage will last, but this is different form the other movies. While they may have an expiration date, their marriage wasn't going to end that night. Its a happy ending; I can't complain, because it was wonderful, but I don't want it to end.

(More reason to worry about this being the last one is that very early in the first movie, Jesse convinces her to get off the train so she can look back "10, 20 years" from now at this choice.)

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