Before Midnight Review

Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Starring: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Year: 2013
This review appears courtesy of Derby QUAD Blog

Rounding out trilogies is a feat no filmmaker can undertake without thinking of the diehard fans. Ensuring all loose ends are tied up, throwing in cheeky nods to forgotten elements of the first, ratcheting up the action….they all require careful attention. For lovers of the original two instalments of Richard Linklater’s trilo-talkie, there’s nothing left unsaid in Before Midnight. It will entrance you completely, blinding you with the ruthlessness of true romance and the joy in our opposites. You’ll rise from your seat, with an urge to leave your phone alone for a few hours and go for a walk with someone you care about.

If you enjoyed the first two outings, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, you’ll be enthralled by this final glimpse into the lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy.) The binational couple who met in 1994 on a train from Budapest, are still blazing a trail for their candid conversations lacking in most romantic dramas. Set nine years after Sunset, Before Midnight picks up the story as the two are now settled down with two children and on vacation in Greece.

Following the obvious financial gain, cinema’s main ambition is that of audience engagement. Holding up a mirror to the world and reflecting it through an artful lens is the chief goal, enacted by stirring the most dormant of viewers into appreciating that our lives truly are fascinating works of elongated fiction. Before Midnight grabs you by the collar, hoists you to the highest rooftop and flaunts its youthful excitement over the breathtaking vista. There’s an unabashed joy for the ugliness in truth and the beauty in falsehoods eager to be spilled from the lips of every one of the characters. And they’re all very, very funny.

“Before Midnight grabs you by the collar, hoists you to the highest rooftop and flaunts its youthful excitement over the breathtaking vista.”

A shared dinner scene between Jesse, Celine and their Greek hosts is one of the film’s central focus points, squeezing out embarrassment from everyday admissions. A young couple at one end of the table lovey dovey their way through the meal with a remarkable awareness of what awaits them, signalling a swift change in romantic attitudes since Jesse and Celine met. A clever triptych of generations is rounded out by two older companions, Patrick, their host and his friend. Both of whom never become derisive with platitudes and instead deliver insight and heart about what it means to love as you grow old. She, in particular tells a heart-wrenching anecdote almost rivaling the banter between our leads.

But this is Jesse and Celine’s show, this is what we’ve waited for for nearly a decade. Their great affection for one another is refreshingly imparted through discussions about issues other than themselves for a good chunk of the film. It’s a lesson a lot of couples could learn from, and one which future generations will heavily rely upon. If we only ever talk about ourselves, who’s going to be there to teach them about everything else in our world?

Watching a couple argue for 40 minutes sounds like hell, but Linklater, Hawke and Delpy plot it out in such a way that you’re never bored. Heck, you’re damned excited to hear what’ll come out of their mouths next. Because this isn’t your normal trip to the cinema. You’re getting life, as is. This isn’t the type of film wherein you’ll visit a hundred locations, have a hero quest for a gauntlet to then overcome a big baddy. The monster here is words and the hero’s quest is to understand them.

before midnight ethan hawke julie delpy richard linklater

Hawke’s swaggering braggadocio is knocked down, only to get up again and win over Celine and us with his exuberance for wanting to be a man who never submits to his shortcomings. He’s matured from the puppy fat twentysomething in Before Sunrise, sharpening around the edges becoming a fine instrument to wage verbal warfare with his long-time partner.

Delpy is simply staggering. There’s nothing off the table and no shame in flitting between reasonable and levelheaded to downright ridiculous. She’s a woman unafraid of voicing her complaint with the world, herself and Jesse.

You’ll lurch for the screen as situations unfold eerily similar to real life; a wonderful evening segues as if by magic into one of argument and hurt. It’ll make a longing romantic out of the most hardened of viewer. You’ll leave the film desperate for a conversation that never proclaims itself to be “deep” (a term which I utterly despise) – but is simply interesting because we are all the most exciting vessels in which stories are carried.

Before Midnight exacts a promise: the happiness we all deserve won’t appear like it does in the movies. It’ll be black, white and grey, no villainy or heroics, but with a burgeoning heart for life and the awe-inspiring excitement we all should strive for in our lives, which reminded me of this quotation from Thornton Wilder, which hung on my teenage bedroom wall:

“Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?”

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gem seddon freelance blogger freelance film journalist freelance writer

About the author

Gem is a freelance writer with 11 years of experience in entertainment journalism and movie blogging. She's written for outlets including Digital Spy, TechRadar, Vulture, Total Film, GamesRadar+, Certified Forgotten, and more.