Nine years. That is the amount of time since the events of Before Sunset have taken place. Enter Before Midnight. Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) are now together (but not married) and have two girls. Crazy huh? Last time we saw these two, Jesse couldn’t get off the couch to go to the airport as Celine danced for him in her little French apartment. Now the two are off together with nine years of being together at a beautiful house in Greece. Too bad that doesn’t promise peace for the two lovers.
What Before Midnight brings that is immensely different from the other two is sadness. While the first hour may seem like they are finally realizing what both of them have been working towards for two films and have gotten together and are happy. But that is what makes this trilogy so special, it shows that even if you finally reach that goal, it does not mean that it will bring you happiness.
As the film begins, we are introduced to Jesse’s son Hank, who is heading back home after spending the summer with his estranged father in Greece.
The scene shows us one things. Jesse wants nothing more than to be a part of his son’s life but his ex-wife has made that impossible. The scene is sad. Hawke looks torn as his son gives him ideal chit chat only to reveal right before he goes to check his bags that Jesse can’t come to his piano recital because it would put too much pressure on his mom which would in turn make him nervous. This heart break for Jesse is only the first of many throughout the film.
This sad tone is a change of pace for the trilogy. Before Sunrise was hopeful. Two strangers meet and chat for awhile on a train heading for Vienna. When they get there, the two get off together and walk the streets all night talking and uncovering the other person through little adventures and conversations. Before Sunset was a little darker but still was never downright sad. Both people were not where they wanted to be at life and show their struggle near the end but never is outright sad and the film ends on a hopeful and ambiguous note. Before Midnight follows suit with the other two and keeps an uplifting tone for half of the film only to slide into utter sadness and pain before yet again leaving us with a glimmer of hope.
What made this film so different from its predecessors as well as the healthy injection of humor. This film was flat out hilarious at times. Jesse displayed the most personality I have ever seen from him and was cracking me up for most of the film. Maybe it came with the perceived nine years of being together that the two got to know each other rather well and know each others personalities now that gave way to this humor but it breathed new life in the story and made a perfect harmony with the pain that also came in the film.
This film was special though. It carried the usual long take conversations and yet again they were masterful. There is an art to making these conversations that director/writer Richard Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy need to teach to the world because they are unlike anything else in modern cinema. The way that they keep you engaged and interested as much as a blockbuster action scene and on the edge of your seat and sighing with dissatisfaction when they end is unlike most writing in film today. The one scene that stood out to me was the dinner scene. It was interesting to interject multiple people into a long take conversation because it was accustom in these films to just have them between Jesse and Celine.
Before Midnight changed that mold and added other characters with great personalities into the conversations which made them unique and something new to the trilogy.
One woman, who had sat quietly through the 15-20 minute scene, was who stuck out to me. She sat quietly as the young lovers, seasoned lovers, and older couples chatted about love and life and interjected a beautiful monologue on life being an act of passing by. She tells the story of her deceased husband and how she is beginning to forget what he looks like. She says that she now has to set aside time to sit down and remember everything about him. But it almost seems that life is passing by now and she is going to lose him soon. This monologue was absolutely beautiful and a thought provoking line that played off the whole constructs of Jesse and Celine’s relationship or first meeting, they were just passing by each others lives.
Before Midnight is an absolute delight and one of the best films I have seen this year. The care put into the script as well as the superb acting made this just delightful to watch. Whether a fan of the first two films or just someone looking for good cinema, it is worth seeing for sure.