We join Jesse and Céline in Greece, some nine years since we last saw them in Paris. What has happened since? Did they end up together, or did they go their separate ways?
Please consider everything after the jump a spoiler for this film. If you want to go into Before Midnight knowing nothing about why the pair are in Greece, then read no further. Please also note that the endings of both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset will also be discussed in this review. If you haven’t seen either of those films, please do not read ahead and watch them asap – you’ll be doing yourself a great service.
My review of Before Midnight is after the jump.
Before Midnight joins Jesse and Céline 18 years after Before Sunrise (set in the Summer of 1994), in which the pair meet thanks to a chance encounter on a train from Budapest. The pair spend one day and night together, strolling the streets of Vienna, talking about life and falling love. 8 years later in Before Sunset, Jesse is touring Europe, promoting a book based on that night. Céline tracks him down and the pair spend the day in Paris, once again discussing the ins and out of life, which includes what happened in the 8 years since their last meeting, and why they hadn’t seen each other since. The ending of Before Sunset is just simply exquisite and wonderful, filled with hope and love; thus when we join the pair 8 years later in Before Midnight, we are aching to know what happened to them.
We first meet Jesse at the airport. He’s saying goodbye to his son, who is on his way back to America, where he lives with his mother. It’s a tough scene, as the pair clearly don’t want to part. Jesse bids him a sad farewell and returns to his car. That’s when we discover what has transpired in the last 8 years. In the car is Céline and their beautiful twin daughters. The pair have ended up together, after what we learn is a series of difficult years living in Europe and America. The family is now based in Paris, but are currently vacationing in Greece. During the rest of the day, which involves driving back to the home they are staying in, dinner with fellow house-guests, and a night in a hotel without their children, we learn much about the pair. In a sense nothing has changed – they love, fight and converse with the same passion as their young selves. However life is different – they have a family, obligations and their words can do real damage.
Before Midnight is perhaps the least enjoyable of the three films, because it most closely resembles the realistic highs and lows of a serious relationship. The naïvety of young love is gone, as is the endless fantastical possibilities for their life together. What we have in this film is all real and effective – the compromises, disappointments, anger, mistakes, regret, jealously, resentment, joy, family, companionship, happiness. All of this epitomises the reality of love, the part of the fairy tale that happens after the “happily ever after”. I found it both a joyful and soul-crushing film to watch. I was overjoyed to see the pair had got together and had built a life together, but saddened by the toll it had taken. Love isn’t always enough to overcome everything, and the ghosts of lives lived and decisions made, haunt their relationship.
While the Céline and Jesse were initially based on a night Likelater himself experienced, this film comes from a very personal place from all three of the writers – Linklater, Deply and Hawke have woven so much of their own lives and experiences into these characters, that you can almost forget that they are only characters. Never have two characters felt more genuine and real. The screenplay in this film (and the previous 2 “Before” films) is a masterclass in naturalistic dialogue. Whilst watching and laughing at a particular joke, I caught myself thinking “that is such a Jesse Joke”. Everything feels like something they would say – nothing the pair says feels fake or forced for the sake of dramatic tension. It goes without saying that the performances are incredible – Deply and Hawke are every inch Céline and Jesse when on-screen.
In Before Midnight there is significantly more interaction with others than the previous films which were almost entirely centered on just Céline and Jesse talking to each other. The other house guests prove to be an intriguing element to the conversations – they gave Céline and Jesse fuel for conversations and afford the audience with a different perspective of the pair. The house guests, their dialogue However, at times felt forced as it was clearly written to allow Céline and Jesse to have certain discussions. I also felt the film’s running time more so than the previous two films. Some of the pairs arguments went round and round in circles, and personally, wore me out. I guess that’s the point as that is what they were likely feeling after such emotionally charged arguments, but it was tiring.
I adored spending time with Céline and Jesse again. It felt like catching up with two dear friends who you don’t often see, but love with all your heart. Before Midnight was an emotionally draining viewing experience, but I think it taught me a lot. Perhaps it should be shown to couples who are intending to marry. Love may be easy, but life takes work.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer(s): Richard Linklater, Julie Deply, Ethan Hawke
Starring: Julie Deply, Ethan Hawke
Runtime: 109 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: July 18; USA: May 24 2013