BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 9, 2013
Of the relationships I’ve encountered, none have gotten as far as the main one in “Before Midnight.” I have had my fair share of fights with girlfriends and even watched them walk out on me, but they were never as intricate and lengthy as the relationship between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). That said, having met gorgeous women before, I related to the first film, “Before Sunrise,” and chance-meeting that same woman again was fulfilled by “Before Sunset,” but that is where my journey ends with relating to these characters with my real-life experiences. We’ve entered a time in their lives that I have not reached yet and have yet to someday experience. That is not to say that I don’t empathize with these characters, still, and enjoy their connection, because I do.
Richard Linklater’s third installment in this ongoing romantic saga picks up yet another nine years later (also in real-time, making this 18 years since Jesse and Celine’s first encounter on a Vienna train in 1995. The couple is still together and has two beautiful twin daughters, a giant leap from when we left them in Paris in Celine’s flat in “Before Sunset.” They’re still quirky and wonderful, having such vibrant personalities that reflect off of everyone around them. The only problem is that they know each other too well, so pressing each other’s buttons is a little too easy. They still have long conversations. Even though we are allowed a more versatile palate of shot selections, rather than the handful of long takes comprising “Before Sunset,” we still experience those long take moments, just less frequently. A long car ride reintroduces us to these characters who are so interesting that you don’t mind eavesdropping on their conversation for twenty-minute stretches. The next long take is an all too familiar stroll in Greece’s countryside, the first time in this feature that these characters are alone.
Where the first two films touched on the idea of love at first sight and intense human connections, “Before Midnight” examines the twists and turns of a long-lasting relationship. The twists and turns come as Celine twists Jesse’s words about moving to Chicago to be closer to his son from his first marriage. The entire film is a snowball effect of arguments and the messiness of human relationships. At times, Linklater almost splits the opinions in half, most obviously soliciting a particular response from the different sexes watching the film, at least in my case, forcing me to choose a side and wonder what the hell is wrong with the differing party. Ultimately, they are both in the wrong, but just like with real-life arguments. People rarely figure out who’s right and who’s wrong, just that each party must give in slightly to their high expectations or demands and learn to compromise.
“Before Midnight” is engaging until the very end, once again leaving the couple’s status in a respectable position, but a situation that could easily be altered in the coming decade ahead of us. The passion between the characters has gone from being entirely interested in fighting for certain parts of their life to stay the same. Almost difficult to watch sometimes, the arguments get so heated that even the most love-will-conquer-all advocates will have their doubts. However, the biggest hit comes when the credits roll, and you wonder if there will be another film in nine years (2022) or if this could be the final installment. I like to believe we will see Jesse and Celine as an elderly couple in a nursing home, holding one another, and still so much in love, telling their stories to their kids and grandkids.
Both Hawke and Delpy continue their unbelievable streak with these characters, producing all the emotions and exciting conversations that the film has to offer. Without them, this franchise would become less enjoyable, and we can only hope Linklater will instead end this series rather than recasting any of these characters. With writing credits right alongside Linklater, Hawke and Delpy show the same connection to the material they do in the previous two films. Even when fighting, their chemistry is undeniable and continues to be one of the most memorable of the straight, sincere dramas.
If only I had stumbled upon these films when they were first released, I can only imagine how strong my connection to these characters would be almost two decades later. Even now, I have grown closer to them, having learned much about them in under five hours. Everything about these films screams a passion project from everyone involved. The willingness to devote such time to these characters and their situations is a sign of love from Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy. That shines through the film’s quality and makes “Before Midnight” one of the best dramas of the year.
May 24, 2013
by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan
Sony Pictures Classics
(for sexual content/nudity and language)
Christos V. Konstantakopoulos