fri 10/04/2020

Before Midnight | reviews, news & interviews

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

We're counting down to the witching hour in the magnificent third instalment of Richard Linklater's international love story

It must be love: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reunite for 'Before Midnight'

Before Midnight is the third part in Richard Linklater's romantic series starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as star-crossed lovers Jesse and Celine. It's a sequence of films that began in 1995 with Before Sunrise (pictured below right), where the two spent a night wandering Vienna, falling in love.

Before Midnight is the third part in Richard Linklater's romantic series starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as star-crossed lovers Jesse and Celine. It's a sequence of films that began in 1995 with Before Sunrise (pictured below right), where the two spent a night wandering Vienna, falling in love. That was followed nine years later by 2004's equally delightful and even more insightful Before Sunset, which followed them on an afternoon rendezvous through Paris. Although they had become somewhat jaded in the intervening years apart and despite complications, the end of that second movie was optimistically ambiguous about their prospects as a couple. Before Midnight answers the question - did they or didn't they end up together?

If you don't want to know what happened to Jesse and Celine stop reading now (and also don't watch the trailer) as the third film quickly discloses this. It's rare to go into a film with so much anticipation and - particularly if viewed in close proximity to the first two - this third part may have you sobbing from the off. Did they stay together this time? And if so, has it been happy-ever-after? The answer to the first part is yes and to the second it's, well, sort of.

Before Midnight begins with Jesse seeing his son off at the airport and, piece by piece, we get the reveal. The relationship with the boy's mother is over, Jesse's still in Europe - but whereabouts and where's Celine? Eventually as he exits the airport we see her and - hankies at the ready - as they get into the car we see their children - two adorable twin girls. The film is set in the Peloponnese where the couple have taken a break from their life in Paris, and are staying at the home of novelist Patrick (cinematographer Walter Lassally). Celine is still saving the world and is considering taking a government job, whereas Jesse remains a novelist with three published works under his belt (the first two document his romance with Celine) and he's now a part-time lecturer.

It's a film that's formidably smart, achingly honest and perceptive

Appropriately, the film broadens its focus slightly to include other characters, particularly a delightful dinner table sequence where couples of various ages and stages of their relationship compare notes. The message is clear - whereas before all these two could see was each other, now there's room for more. Their worries too have expanded to encompass parenthood, with Jesse anxious about abandoning his son and Celine about her perceived inadequacies as a mother. The film ultimately takes a similar shape to the first two as the couple have been treated to a night in a nearby hotel; it's a night away from the girls and their responsibilities but it quickly turns into a chance to let rip, with frustrations only glimpsed thus far rising furiously to the fore. It all rings terrifically, sometimes uncomfortably true.

As with Before Sunset, Linklater co-writes with Delpy and Hawke, creating a film that's formidably smart, achingly honest and perceptive. The leads again share exceptional chemistry and a natural repartee; in the past Delpy has tended to eclipse her co-star in the acting stakes but this is Hawke's best performance yet and it may even be his most likeable performance ever. That's not to say that Delpy isn't superb and as unselfconscious as always.

A warts-and-all version of love Before Midnight may be - and the impact will inevitably be lessened for those who haven't seen the previous two films (regarding that I say see them quick!) - but, even so, this is a wondrous work. Perhaps this won't be the end of Jesse and Celine's screen story but, if it is, it could hardly be bettered.

Watch the trailer for Before Midnight

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Did they or didn't they end up together?

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

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A film that had me weeping with recognition and regret-I loved it (!) Go See!

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