Like its prequels “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” is a film that offers viewers a unique and authentic perspective on love and the complexity of relationships.
Viewers were first introduced to Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American writer, and Celine (Julie Delpy), a French environmentalist, in “Before Sunrise” (1995) when the two met on a train in Vienna and ended up spending the entire night talking to each other. They met again nine years later in “Before Sunset” (2004), which takes place in Paris. Although they were unable to start a relationship until the end of the second film, they are in a relationship and have children in “Before Midnight,” which takes place after yet another nine years.
Linklater wrote the script along with the two main actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. “Before Midnight” is similar in style to the first two films and the dialogue is just as smart. All three films are slow moving with long, unbroken shots, and the script is what is interesting and captivating. The main difference in “Before Midnight,” which takes place in beautiful Greece, is that Jesse and Celine are no longer strangers who are getting to know each other; they are married with children and facing problems in their relationship; it is their relationship that drives the script.
From the very beginning of the film it is clear that both Jesse and Celine, now in their
40’s, are stressed about their relationship as well as their role as parents. The first scene shows Jesse in an airport getting ready to send his son back to his ex-wife (whom he left for Celine), and it is obvious that he feels guilty about letting his son go.
In the next scene, Jesse and Celine are driving with their young twin daughters to visit friends. In the unbroken shot, which lasts over 15 minutes, Jesse and Celine express their concerns to each other about their abilities as parents and their dwindling relationship. The scene ends with Celine finally admitting, “I’m surprised we lasted this long.”
Over the course of the afternoon and evening, Jesse and Celine’s relationship is tested. While spending the night together alone in a hotel room, they get into an argument that will make or break their relationship. In a scene that feels almost too intrusive and personal to watch, they argue over ex-spouses, children, work, the inability to accept each other and other issues that plague modern relationships. Like its two sequels, “Before Midnight” ends ambiguously, leaving the viewer unsure of what will happen to Jesse and Celine.
“Before Midnight” is about as realistic and authentic as a film can be. It is the smart but natural dialogue that makes the characters extremely believable and relatable. Although it is the third film in the series, viewers still care about Jesse and Celine and long to know what will happen to them next. For viewers who want to see an intelligent, thought-provoking film about the sacrifices and rewards of relationships as well as life, “Before Midnight” is a must-see.