Movie Review: “Before Midnight” – A Few Magic Hours

Written by Emily McWilliams August 12, 2013

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Director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have once again managed to create a fresh and intelligent depiction of love and capture it on film.  It’s been 18 years since audiences were first introduced to Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) as two twenty-somethings who met by chance on a train bound for Vienna and decide to spend the night together walking around the city and discussing life in “Before Sunrise.” Nine years later Jesse and Celine met in “Before Sunset” while Jesse was on a book tour in France promoting his latest work.  Again, their time together was limited but the complex attraction to each other was apparent to these characters and the audience members who watched them.  Now, in “Before Midnight” we meet Jesse and Celine as a married couple on vacation with their children in Greece; another nine years has passed since audiences were left wondering what would happen to these accidental lovers.  Even though they are now married and no longer bound to time constraints or borders, Jesse and Celine still manage to show through their relationship what it means to love in the moment and the value of making a meaningful connection with another person.

“I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.”

“Before Midnight” follows the style of the previous films in this series and also seems to adopt a similar approach taken by Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand in “The Decline of the American Empire” in the sense that this is not a plot driven film.  Most of the film is composed of conversations and places the viewer in the midst of these dialogues as an observer.  Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have created one of the most consistent and naturalistic character studies in film that has supported the series and drawn audiences back for the past two decades.  It is clear from Hawke and Delpy’s improvisational approach to their acting that they truly know their characters, leading to a lively and loving chemistry between Jesse and Celine.  Linklater compliments their relationship by opting for a neo-realist technical approach combining the use of long takes to give audiences even more of an organic impression from the depiction of the relationship.  Visually, the film doesn’t offer anything overly ambitious and tries to let the viewer focus on what is being said between the characters.

Ethan Hawke Julie Delpy

New scenery, characters, and relationships add dimension

Even though this film follows a similar formula to “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight” progresses the series in an appropriate and realistic manner that doesn’t rely on the conventions of the previous films.  To see Jesse and Celine married in “Before Midnight” was a necessary plot development even if it did seem a little conventional for this couple.  The element of marriage has changed the dynamic of their relationship as they tackle more serious problems such as the distance between Jesse and his son from a previous relationship.  As well, audiences can now see the life Jesse and Celine have managed to build for themselves, including more secondary characters and friends to change the pace of the movie and portray Jesse and Celine outside of their own personal bubble.

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Summer Love

“Before Midnight” is another philosophical and human approach to filmmaking by director Linklater.  For fans of the first two movies in the series, you will not be disappointed with this newest installment chronicling Jesse and Celine’s relationship.  For new viewers to the series, “Before Midnight” can be viewed as a stand-alone film, but I would recommend checking out the entire series to fully understand this couple.  As summer winds down, “Before Midnight” is that last breath of warm, fresh air that reminds you of love in the purest way.

My Rating: 8/10

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