BEFORE MIDNIGHT was a rather inevitable film, especially after BEFORE SUNSET, not a bad thing at all as we now have the BEFORE trilogy. The story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) continues, 18 years after it first started, when they met on a train and experienced a life changing night. After their reunion, the pair got together and this is where we find them in MIDNIGHT. With Jesse saying good-bye to his son at the airport as he leaves back to Chicago after spending the summer. This is a tough moment for Jesse, who as it’s apparent has been lacking in his sons life and he regrets that. Jesse then gets in the car with Celine and their twin daughters.
As usual the pair have a discussion, taking place entirely on the drive, with long shots. This is the welcome back that fans have been longing for and for those unfamiliar this will easily get you engaged. Their conversation reveals an underlying tension between the pair, and as it is foreshadowed this tension will erupt. They are in Greece, on a writers retreat that Jesse was invited to. But as the holiday is coming to an end, real life is catching up with them again. This is the story of after the ‘Happily Ever After’ and just like every couple Jesse and Celine have their issues.
The film uses the methods that made the previous films so wonderful, the long shots and the scattered moments. Between these two characters, it’s incredible, it doesn’t matter how we see them it’s engaging and harrowing. The film is at its best when it is focused on the pair, there is one scene that almost takes that away, however it redeems itself very easily. The moment is meant to show us Jesse and Celine with others and how they act when not alone. After this the pair walk through where they are staying, and it feels so special and intimate. When Celine asks Jesse questions about his love for her, the insecurities she has are showing. His reaction show his own insecurities and it is apparent they can’t quite manage to discuss this properly.
As the pair head to a hotel for the night, a gift from another couple on the retreat, it starts off romantic but soon the tensions are boiling. This is when the film hits a note that was fore shadowed and it’s very heartbreaking. By now these two characters feel like friends, and to see them at this point is not something anyone wants to see. But it is reality, this does happen and it’s handled in a very raw way. At its core this is about love and commitment, the issues that are almost universal with couples. The hotel scenes are some of the most intense and shocking that cinema has to offer for this year, and it might see strange with a film like this, cinema at its finest can do that.
Linklater and his stars have done it again, they have created a truly magnificent film, with real characters and their on-going development makes perfect sense. The passion for Jesse and Celine is hot, they care for them as much as we do. The performances again are stellar, these two actors know these characters as well as they known themselves. They certainly have put their heart and soul into them, it shows with each and every moment. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have done it again, they have told a story that is as beautiful as it is tragic. Linklater as well has made such a mature film, a true love letter and as a director this is his best work.
With a beginning, middle and an end that are extremely well done, this will please fans and perhaps invite others to explore the magic of Jesse and Celine. BEFORE MIDNIGHT is a beautiful film, and outstanding piece of cinema that will stand the test of time.