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BEFORE MIDNIGHT (review)

BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Written by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
 
Natalia: Just like our lives, we appear and we disappear and we are so important to some but we are just passing through.
 

A note from the writer: It is impossible to discuss this film without revealing plot points that fans of the series might not want to know until they see it. Read at your own risk.

The latest, and supposedly last, chapter in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, is both grander and darker then its predecessors. It is also a brilliantly fitting progression in Jesse and Celine’s story, that will surely satisfy the millions of fans who have been desperate to find out what happened to their favorite couple since they last saw Jesse mulling over missing his plane out of Paris while longing, and lusting, for his muse in her living room. Another nine years has passed since that moment and Linklater takes what started as a modern fairy tale, and what then grew into a potentially devastating regret, and gives the audience the chance to see what might finally happen to Jesse and Celine when they don’t have somewhere else to be before the sun rises or sets.

If you don’t want to know what happens next for Jesse and Celine (again, naturally, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), then read no further. As it turns out, Jesse did miss that plane that day in Paris, and he and Celine then embarked on a spree of passion that led to Jesse’s divorce and subsequent loss of custody of his son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). Flash forward to nine years later and Jesse and Celine are living in Paris but on summer vacation in Greece, with Hank and their two twin girls of their own (Jennifer and Charlotte Prior). They have been together this entire time but the same witty banter that first drew them to each other still flows freely between them. The conversation has changed though. They now speak to each other like a functional couple that is negotiating at all times to ensure the future of the relationship and the future of their individual selves within that relationship. And of course, they have these lengthy chats while strolling through scenic Greece so there is plenty to feast on both visually and intellectually.

Before-Midnight2

Without a concrete reason for them to part company at a specific time, Linklater explores a more organic desire within most of us to break free from another person, despite how much time we’ve spent with them and despite how much we may care about them. In that sense, BEFORE MIDNIGHT imposes its own more metaphoric deadline upon Jesse and Celine. Formally, the film ends at midnight, but midnight can also refer to the fairy tale romance coming to an end, with chariots turning back into pumpkins and gowns turning back into rags. Neither Jesse nor Celine would dispute that the other is, and always has been, the love of their lives, but Linklater doesn’t allow them to have it all without fully realizing what all entails. In that sense, though their love may seem on the surface to be harder than it was 18 or 9 years ago, their love underneath that surface clearly goes deeper than either ever expected.

Click here to read my reviews of BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET.

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