Victor S. K. P.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Note: This isn't really a review. This is me being touched by a film at a very humane, deep level, and rambling about it because I feel like it must be done. Sorry for the inconvenience.
I find it odd, really, being a teenager that's filled with life, passion, and an unhealthy amount of curiosity and energy that this is, by far, my favourite of the trilogy. On the other hand, the parallels and contrasts to my life are undeniable, and those certainly help in solidifying this as my favourite (although some other elements do come into it, but more on that later).
One of the main affinities I hold towards this film is the opening scene. Due to the writing, direction, and naturally, acting, you can't help but relate, and feel the profound melancholy that Jesse feels as he sends his son, Hank, to a boarding school. What Jesse felt is far stronger than anything Hank felt -- being a child, Hank naturally finds it easier to accept things as they are. Watching this scene, I felt a rather powerful sense of gloom.
For the first time ever, I understood what my parents felt when they sent me away to a foreign boarding school, 12 years ago, when their child was just 4. If art is meant to let you ponder on ideas you hadn't previously really considered, if at all, then just within its few openings minutes, Before Midnight already achieved that.
And yet, that was just the start. The remainder of the film was building up towards one of my biggest fears, as it treaded ground, expanding on the cracks of a relationship that was once upon a time so full of vivid passion, energy, vigour, and what's most important to me -- zeal.
(Indirect spoilers here, until otherwise indicated.)
The build up towards the climax is excellent; I especially loved the conversation around the dinner table. It touched on a number of themes I find to be incredibly curious. But the star of the show is the climax itself. The scene at the hotel room, although irritating in some ways at the start (I find the way straightforwardness and honesty is, perhaps naturally to most humans, avoided to be quite annoying).
Seeing these two people who were once so madly in love and craving for one another, enamoured by conversations of philosophy, love, art, and so much of what makes the world so fascinating now questioning such primitive, borderline mundane subjects, and being overwhelmed with emotion because of them was heartbreaking in many ways...
But then, there's the magical final, climactic scene. The bridge between fiction and reality. Its beauty, I think, lies in that it effectively kills off the characters who met 18 years prior on that train to Vienna... These two wonderful people finally give up on their fairy tales, and embrace reality. Yet it's so well done, it's as tragic, as it is beautiful. Honestly, it gives me hope. This final scene tells me one thing:
(No more spoilers.)
My fear of the mundane, my fear of a longterm monogamous relationship is probably quite justified, but with it, a deeper connection to the world is formed. Perhaps one day, I will, indeed, have to give up my dreams and illusions and typical romantic beliefs. But perhaps then, it will be fine. Perhaps one day, accepting reality for what it is will be the only genuinely possible evolution for me -- for us as human beings -- and perhaps with that, so many decades from now, life might feel, in its own way, fresh, unique, and anything but banal, with its own limitations and rules.
The fact that this film had the guts to be so different, yet so similar to its predecessors effectively shows off its guts. I think it's by far the most ambitious of the three; certainly the deepest, and most complex film of the trilogy. The two leads are, as mentioned by the whole world and then some, exceptional -- this time, even by their own, previous standards, as is the writing, and directing. The camerawork this time around feels far, far more involved, and exceptional. How sick is that last shot?!
And as much as I love both Vienna and Paris, I think Greece just serves as a far more beautiful backdrop than the previous locales... Its implications, too, are certainly remarkably rich in their symbolism, and metaphors.
And finally, the character of Jesse is perhaps the one I can relate to more than any other fictional character. My friend rightfully said, upon watching the opening minutes of Sunrise, that Jesse and I are similar. We're certainly different in a vast variety of ways, but in quite a few, we're undeniably homogenous, and Midnight shows this more than any previous film in the franchise -- and seeing these similarities is something I've found to be undeniably refreshing...
To conclude this overly long soliloquy of an awed teenagers, I'd just like to thank Mr. Linklater, Mr. Hawke, Mrs. Delpy, and everyone else involved for making this excellent trilogy -- especially this last gem. This is a truly epic exploration of the intimate, and of the universal. Thank you.
★★★★½: A fantastic piece whose qualities push it into the upper echelons of great cinematic works.