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BEFORE MIDNIGHT (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Richard Linklater, 
Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Sara Woodhatch
Screenplay by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Based on Characters by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Sony Pictures Classics / Rated R

Before Midnight, the third installment of Richard Linklater’s exquisitely realistic portrayal of love, is a beautifully authentic display of a seasoned relationship.  Actors and co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy bring both a natural rapport and chemistry to their performances .

Nearly twenty years ago, we met Jessie (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) in the first film, Before Sunrise. The pair fell in love but is unfortunately separated by distance and circumstance.

They meet again nine years later in Before Sunset when Jessie’s national bestseller based on their experience brings him abroad. The end of the second film leaves us with the implication that Jessie may leave his wife in the US and start a life with the true love of his life, Celine.

The first two films were a unique and candid display of these two individuals’ views of love, politics, and life. The evocative nature of the series stems from the presentation of their private conversations. The audience is a fly on the wall bearing witness to Jessie and Celine’s opinions and passionate insights. It was amazing that as soon as Delpy and Hawke began talking in Before Midnight, I felt at home. The atmosphere is so sincerely familiar, even when it aches with doubt as the movie progresses.

Before Midnight is different than its predecessors.

In romantic films we are usually given the implied happily-ever-after but we never see it. This film brings us to a hard moment in Celine and Jessie’s relationship. While their lives are presently filled with conflict and doubt, they are ever passionate, challenging and even hilarious while maintaining every nuance of the young couple we admired twenty years ago. The initial perception of “happy endings” is challenged with brutally honest-induced acrimony.

While the movie focuses almost exclusively on their conversations about their relationship roles, jobs, and family, Linklater brings in other characters this time. We get to see Jessie and Celine interact with friends, mentors, and their children (Jessie’s son, and their twin daughters). The additional perspectives are delightful additions to their complexity because the characters fluidly maintain their strong personalities and devotion to their ideas and aspirations, regarding themselves and each other. They aren’t even afraid to bicker at the dinner table.

The film is an illustration of their endurance of life, insecurity, uncertainty, projections, fears, and ultimate source of angst: forever committing to another unconditionally. The couple isn’t blissfully enamored with each other any more and they aren’t afraid to voice these imperfections even in a circular fashion that has potential to ruin their evening. When a sensual intimate scene digresses into one of tension and anger we viscerally feel the mood shift with the characters. Delpy and Hawke argue in the most genuine manner that can only be admired, even while it’s heart wrenching.

Linklater’s directs long, uncut scenes in the gorgeous setting of Greece. The smooth transitions and complete absence of pause really engrosses the audience, and further exemplifies just how expertly the director presents such a realistic relationship. His ability to capture natural conversation that feels unscripted is unmatched by any other romantic film I’ve ever seen.

Cheers to the entire production for making such a masterpiece depiction of the hardships of long lasting love.

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