Jamie Sherwood’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sequels are an odd thing, sometimes you watch a film knowing full well that they are setting it up for a sequel, and that's fine, you can see a continuation of story that could make the whole thing work fine. Sometimes you see a film that is its own thing, it is a self contained story that doesn't need anything more, so when you learn that there are plans to make a sequel you become worried, will they ruin this film that you hold so dear. Thankfully Before Sunset built upon the characters of Before Sunrise and provided a really good follow up to the original tale. It is a film that again felt complete, so when it was announced that Before Midnight was in production, the worry set in once more, what could we possibly get from these characters that we didn't get before? Thank Christ then that the people making these films are as passionate about the characters as the audience, as this is a film made with such love that it really just works from start to finish.
Picking up 9 years on from before Sunset, Jesse and Celine are now a proper couple, they have twin daughters and whilst not married, are a family unit. The film begins with Jesse sending his son from his previous marriage back home to America (they are in Greece) to his mother. He is obviously hating the experience of being separated from his son, but realises that these are the choices he has made in life. From here we get a film that is essentially a look into 18 hours in the life of a couple. This isn't a film where things happen, it is a film where people sit around, they discuss things, they have dinner, they walk through fields. It's not a film for those looking for huge amounts of plot.
This isn't a criticism in any way though, this is actually the major strength of the film. The film is scripted improvisations, built from workshops with the actors, a story was built. As such the whole thing has an incredibly natural feel to it, you always feel honestly as though you are in the presence of a real couple, talking about real things.
That being said it must be said that whilst the couple feel real, they are obviously quite an intellectual couple, he is a writer, she has an important job too, and these are people who enjoy discussing theoretical situations about life and love and so forth, this isn't to say that what they discuss sounds like something from a film, it doesn't, but it could put some people off.
As for the way the film is made, it is really rather wonderful at times, with these incredibly long takes lasting what feels like 15-20 minutes at times with no cut aways just letting the actors talk, letting the scene play out naturally in a way that constant cuts sometimes detracts from. This could have something to do with the stage of relationship they are in. They are settled, they are at ease with one another, they don't need flash or excitement, they have one another.
This doesn't mean they have a trouble free relationship, there is plenty of conflict here, some of the more interesting moments of the character development come from the conflict of the characters.
Overall this is an incredibly good character study, showcasing two actors who really just feel at home in the roles that they helped create. This is a film with no pretence, it's not trying to be anything other than a snapshot of a couples life. You know what, if they announced another sequel in another 9 years time, will I worry? After three successful films I think I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, because these are characters who remain interesting to us, they provide excellent insights into romance as we grow up, and I want to see what happens next.