Zach Gilbert’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before Marathon - #3 Before Midnight
“But if you want true love, then this is it. This is real life. It's not perfect, but it's real. And if you can't see it, then you're blind, all right, and I give up.”
Before Sunset serves as the transition between Jesse and Celine’s first meeting in Before Sunrise and their later marital strife in Before Midnight, and it’s technically the second installment in this franchise, but I think I view Before Midnight as the true sequel to the original film. In many ways, Before Midnight is the exact opppsite of Before Sunrise, and they act as mirror reflections of one another. Sunrise basks in the hazy infatuation of first love and the feelings of hope and buoyancy that accompany this initial encounter, while Midnight acts in the grimy realism of marriage and commitment, wallowing in the feelings of disenchantment and resentment that can fester within a couple over years of their union. If Before Sunrise is a fairy tale, Before Midnight serves as the “after happily ever after” epilogue.
Some prefer the first two films for their fanciful, breezy tones, but I would say Before Midnight is easily my second favorite behind the original, and they’re pretty damn close. So many modern romance films shy away from the true anger that bubbles within long-term couples and attempt to spread the idea that “everything works itself out eventually”. In many cases, that is not the truth. Before Midnight indulges in this messy, uncertain reality with one of the most brutal and potent arguments ever portrayed on screen and a heartbreakingly ambiguous final scene. Given the time that audiences have invested in Jesse and Celine’s relationship over the course of these three films, we are just as susceptible to the emotional devastation they experience, and the blows land quite forcefully. In many ways, I think this is the best written installment in the series as well - many have worked at capturing the idea of “young love” on screen and delivered (in the vein of Before Sunrise), but I don’t ever think I’ve seen a middle aged couple portrayed in such a graceful yet convincing manner.
This one cut quite deep, and I’m truly torn on whether or not I want a fourth installment in the series. I would like to spend eternity watching Jesse and Celine squabble and flirt while traversing beautiful, European landscapes, but I also feel like this is such a fitting and fulfilling ending to one of the best trilogies of all time. Time will tell. I certainly keep an eye on 2022 😉