I spent last weekend with Jesse and Celine and it was beautiful. On Friday I watched them bump into each other on a train, spending a single day together wondering around Vienna, making for the most romantic film I’ve ever seen. On Saturday their paths crossed 9 years later in Paris, as Celine tracked down Jesse and their connection rekindled as more mature grownups. Then on Sunday I got to visit them once more, again 9 years later when everything isn’t quite what it once was but what they
once feared it could turn out to be.
That last outing is Before Midnight, the conclusion to Richard Linklater’s naturalistic trilogy, all of which are pretty much devoid of plot and laden with the most honest, organic onscreen couple imaginable. These films are genuinely little nuggets of treasure. Before Midnight compliments what’s come before despite feeling like the toughest to write, partly because of our familiarity with the characters and structure of what’s come before and partly because of the challenges in showing the more heartbreaking side to the couple’s struggles. While instantly recognisable as the same pair of charming, wondering conversationalists, the tenderness of their romance shows natural weariness and it’s handled admirably. The performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are stunning as they reprise their roles like they’ve never been away from them. The film’s a credit to what’s come previously, even if no particular moment conveyed quite the same emotional punch weight as the youthful excursions of yesteryear.
There’s maybe the first misstep from the whole trilogy (an unnecessary, extended topless scene) which makes it maybe not my favourite from the series, but these characters and their dialogue are so immense that there’s no doubt in my mind that these are films I’ll be revisiting forever. Linklater’s Before films have such a strong emotional intimacy that they really are here to be treasured. For anyone who’s
never seen them before, get you’re hands on the first (Before Sunrise) and I promise you are in for a really rare delight.
Review by David Rank
Before Midnight is out now in the US and the UK. Running time 109 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).