This is the third in Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE trilogy. Not sure if it was originally intended to be a trilogy back when he made the first in 1995, but who cares?!? I really enjoyed the first two. In fact, if you want to know in greater detail of what I thought about SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, you can read about that right here! Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way. We can continue with BEFORE MIDNIGHT! A movie that pretty much came out of nowhere. Before they even announced that they were going to make a third one, they just went out and shot it! Then announced that it was completed! That’s pretty awesome! Also, if you haven’t seen the other 2 movies, then I highly recommend that you DO NOT read this review. Because in order to talk about the plot in this film, I have to spoil what happened in the other ones. So CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!!!
BEFORE MIDNIGHT begins roughly 9 years after SUNSET. Jesse and Celine are now living together in Paris and have twin daughters. At the start of the movie, Jesse is dropping his son (from his previous marriage) off at the airport, who just spent the summer with him and Celine in Greece (which is where the movie takes place). After that, Jesse gets in the car with Celine and his kids as they drive back to their friend’s house where they are staying for the summer. Once they get back, we find out that Jesse and Celine’s friends have reserved a hotel room for them in town so they can get a chance to have a romantic evening together. At first, the two don’t really feel like it, but after some coaxing, they agree. It’s during their time at the hotel that their relationship is tested to the fullest.
Just like the first 2 films, this takes place entirely in one day. And also like those films, it’s very dialogue heavy. We learn through conversations that Jesse and Celine’s relationship has all the strain every relationship has. I found this refreshing because I think it’s pretty easy to romanticize their relationship from the previous films. Instead of building upon that “legend”, it shows that the characters deal with all the normal issues that every couple must go through. The result is one fascinating movie, and one of the most realistic films about relationships that has ever been put on the screen.
Because I’ve been invested with these characters for nearly 20 years, every conversation they have is more captivating then the next. The first one takes place on the car ride back to their friend’s vacation house. It’s one unbroken shot of them while they’re driving in their car, talking about various things that real couples actually talk about. The last 40 minutes contains some of the most emotionally involving moments I’ve experienced in quite some time. It starts off as a harmless argument (about moving to America so Jesse can be closer to his son), but it turns into something greater. I know we’ve all been through that, so it makes it all the more relatable. This ending confrontation is about as intense to watch as any horror film, because these characters that you care so much about are in danger of splitting up. I didn’t want that to happen and the constant arguing back and forth had me at the edge of my seat, as tears were pouring from my eyes. I won’t spoil the ending for you, of course, but it has a similar ending to the previous films, as you’re not sure of what the outcome will be. I love that! I love that Linklater has the guts to let us think about what will happen for ourselves. I absolutely loved the ending! About as perfect as it gets!
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are absolutely spellbinding. Even more than the other 2, they really dig into these characters. They’re older, a little more tired and even bitter. Hawke’s Jesse is more mature this time, but he still has that “dreamer” inside him. Delpy’s Celine is not as optimistic anymore. She is pretty much the reason why they argue all the time. I’m not taking sides here though. They both have they’re faults, but they’re also both beautiful people, and we WANT them to stay together. And that’s a big accomplishment for the actors… to get the audience to care so much for them. I think this film is even more raw than the other two. It’s also the first film that has nudity. Delpy is topless during most of the climatic argument. It doesn’t feel gratuitous at all, but very realistic. You see, the argument starts just as they were about to make love, so she had her shirt off. I know I’ve had arguments with topless girls before. Why not in the movies? I really commend Delpy for having the balls to be “real”. Both lead actors bear it all, figuratively. I would love to see them both nominated for their work here.
Linkalater has made a masterpiece. He lets the actors breath on-screen by shooting everything in long takes. It’s really the best approach for these movies, giving it a realism that is missing from almost every other film. The camera is almost invisible. There’s no big camera movements or unique shots. Linklater just lets the actors do their thing and the movie comes to life because of it. The script is pitch perfect. Every line, every moment, is completely genuine. I can’t see how anyone could NOT be affected by this movie. I’m sure that there is at least one thing here that will hit close to home for everyone. It has a lot to say about relationships, life, culture and love.
BEFORE MIDNIGHT completes what has to be the best romantic trilogy of all time. It’s a love story for the ages. Not in that fake-Hollywood way. But in the most natural way possible. This is real life! Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy shine in what has to be the most genuine, brutally honest, and romantic tale of love in all of film history. Linklater has made a crowning achievement! If you loved the other 2, then you will absolutely be taken with this one. I think it’s the best of the series, and that’s saying an awful lot! This is the first MUST-SEE movie of the year! ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for sexual content/nudity and language.
– Running time: 1hr 48min.