directed by Richard Linklater
starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
Castle Rock Entertainment
Before Midnight continues the adventures of Jesse and Celine, two people from entirely different worlds who met eighteen years ago on a train in the film Before Sunrise. Before Sunset saw them take their relationship to a deeper place by making it even more complex.
As this film opens, Jesse and Celine are married and vacationing in Greece. From the start it is apparent that this magnetic and combustible couple is constantly struggling to hang onto the magic chemistry that brought them together amidst the whirlwind of changes they encounter in their forties.
With this series writer/director Richard Linklater has taken his fascination with fate and how time changes people to a whole new level. In the last eighteen years we have met Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in their twenties and thirties, and now we see them slugging it out in their forties. During this time we have seen them gab and crab and love and hate, while walking and talking amidst some of the best European scenery imaginable. With these three films we have seen these characters grow, change, and develop into more intriguing people. This is due in large part to having Delpy and Hawke as collaborators on the scripts.
Before Midnight sees Jesse and Celine facing their toughest challenge yet. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met in their hipster twenties in Before Sunrise, reunited in their introspective thirties in Before Sunset, and now, in director/co-writer Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, they face the consequences of their past, present, and future. As this installment opens, Jesse is a successful novelist working on his next work at a writer’s retreat. Having just had his son stay with him for the summer, he entertains thoughts of returning to the States to be a larger part of his life. Jesse’s paternal pangs weigh heavily on his mind and begin to affect his relationship with Celine. Celine is facing her own conundrums about her career. She’s been offered a great job working for a person she doesn’t particularly enjoy; however, the opportunity would provide her with the professional career satisfaction she currently lacks.
With such inner tumult nagging at them, not even the scenery provided by a Greek villa can shield them from the impending conflict. The tension picks up and sprints when a planned night at a luxurious hotel serves as the detonation point for an explosive confrontation.
The evening starts off well enough and all signs point to a nice romantic getaway. Unfortunately, the common issues that divide them — their work, children, aspirations, and goals — come to the surface. Of course the audience has seen all of this coming. The percolating buildup of their distinctly different approaches to life has led to a dangerous series of challenges and problems that threatens their very future.
In the luxurious confines of their hotel room, things spiral out of control in a lengthy series of fights loaded with raw intensity and aggressive bitterness. The gloves come of after Celine explodes about being a character in Jesse’s novel and Jesse challenges her to entertain moving to America, reminding her that he gave up everything to be with her.
Following two emotionally powerful films, it seems only logical to have Before Midnight explore the toxicity of this relationship. This is Linklater’s masterstroke. He has leveraged the tranquility and romanticism of Jesse and Celine’s relationship in favor of a more realistic depiction of a two people facing the challenges of a modern, evolving couple.
Delpy and Hawke each again turn in great performances by feeding off of each other in a symbiotic way. As they fight, flirt, and flounder as a romantic couple, the two leads aptly convey the angsty struggle associated with a struggling marriage. After almost two decades together, their onscreen dynamic still works. Skillfully guided by Linklater’s artistic vision, the trio has again turned their hearts inside out in a raw, bleeding, and passionate pulp of tension-filled drama in paradise that results in a compelling film.
Before Midnight: sonyclassics.com/beforemidnight