PG Cooper: Before Midnight Review

Posted: June 22, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

*Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous films in the “Before Trilogy”, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

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Richard Linklater’s 1995 film Before Sunrise is an amazing movie detailing the one night romance between two strangers: Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). The film ended on an ambiguous note that a sequel might have ruined, but 2004’s Before Sunset lived up to the high standards of its predecessor. The film is set nine years after Before Sunrise where we revisit the lives of Jesse and Celine. Also like its predecessor, Before Sunset ended on an ambiguous note which fans would need to wait nine years to see an answer to. That time has come and Before Midnight has arrived to high hopes and expectations.

The film takes place nine years after Before Sunset and Jesse and Celine have been in a long lasting relationship and have twin daughters. The two are living in Paris but have spent the summer in Greece with some friends, as well as Jesse’s son from a previous marriage Hank. However as the film opens, Hank is returning to his home in the United States. Jesse clearly misses his son and feels he isn’t there for his son enough. From this, the idea of moving to the United States is born in the heads of both Jesse and Celine, causing conflict between the two.

The great thrill of Before Midnight is seeing how the relationship between Jesse and Celine has changed and how it has stayed the same. The two still have the same chemistry and spark that has made them so fun to be with from the beginning. The conversations they have are just as fascinating as ever and the dialogue can still make me laugh and also think. It really is impressive that Hawke, Delpy, and Linklater are able to bring back these elements effortlessly even after all this time. That said this film also has a lot more conflict between Jesse and Celine than the previous films. They’ve been together consistently for almost a decade now and as such some of the luster has worn off. That’s not to say they don’t love each other anymore, but their relationship is no longer a stream of excitement and passion that it once was. One could say first film in the series is about the excitement of young love, the second is about how those loves are extremely rare, while Before Midnight is about the consequences of following one’s passion.

On a surface level, Before Midnight is incredibly engrossing in that it continues the saga of Jesse and Celine’s relationship. These are characters that are not only extremely likable and interesting, but also characters we’ve seen change and grow interesting ways over a long period of time. It’s this connection to the characters which make their moments of happiness so enjoyable, and their conflicts so painful. Newcomers to the series will get this sense as well, but there is another level of poignancy for fans of the previous films. On a deeper level, the film says a lot about relationships, romance, men and women, patterns we fall into, and ageing. It’s these insights which help elevate Before Midnight (and the other films in the series) above other romances.

Of course, all of this wouldn’t amount to match if the acting wasn’t up to par, but thankfully this isn’t the case. The performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are fantastic. It would be easy to take their work for granted given this is the third time they’ve played these characters, but it truly is great work. Both are able to balance a wide range of emotions and can go from fun and playful to dramatic and emotional in the same scene. There’s a lot of range to both of their work and they also delve further into these characters, and the fact that there is more character to delve into is in itself something of note. And while I’m on the subject of elements easy to take for granted, I want to take some time to talk about Richard Linklater’s visuals. Now, these are movies driven by the conversation and characters, no question, but there are some interesting things going on visually. For example, the film has a very long uninterrupted conversation between Jesse and Celine near the beginning of the film and I also think Linklater does a great job keeping the visuals from being boring but never to the point of becoming distracting.

If Richard Linklater had never made a follow-up to Before Sunrise, than we would have an excellent film about young love with an ending which would keep fans debating for years. Instead, he, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy have chosen to continue the story of these characters and the film world is all the better for it. Not only has their story been continuously fascinating, but through it the trio have been able to explore a number of interesting themes as well as chronicle the way love changes in different parts of one’s life. Before Midnight carries this tradition on and fits in with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset perfectly. If this is the end of Jesse and Celine’s story, than I can say with certainty that it’s been an incredible journey and one I won’t forget. And if Linklater and the gang decide to return in another nine years, they’ll be welcomed back with open arms.

A+

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    The best movie of the year so far, and might just be for the rest of the year if ’13 doesn’t turn out to be as amazing as it seems to be promising. Good review PG.

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