Before Midnight, 2013, USA
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ethan Hawke & Julie Deply
''I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.''
I only saw Richard Linklater’s first two ‘Before’ films for the first time in the latter half of 2012 and instantly realized why these films are so beloved. I thought ‘Sunrise’ & ‘Sunset’ were brilliant and I enjoyed damn near every second of Jesse & Celine’s conversations. When I discovered that there was a third instalment into the ‘Before’ being released in 2013, it instantly became my most anticipated film of the year. The question though was could Linklater, Hawke & Deply capture the same magic for a third time? Short answer: Yes, Slightly longer answer: Hell Yes! Even longer answer: Hells freakin’ yes, ‘Before Midnight’ may be the best installment of the trilogy!
9 years after the events of ‘Before Sunset’, Jesse & Celine are together and have twin daughters and are vacationing in Greece. When Jesse’s son leaves to return home to his Mother in the States, Jesse & Celine reassess their lives and where they go from here.
The success of these ‘Before’ films really comes down to two factors, 1) Linklater’s uncanny ability to write realistic and immersive dialogue 2) Ethan Hawke & Julie Deply’s incredible on screen chemistry. Without these two factors I’m afraid these be nothing more than pretentious emotionally hollow films, but the contribution of these three talented people make these films national treasures that ooze reality and genuine emotion.
Making films that are so dialogue heavy is always going to be a hard sell but Linklater has made a career out of it. With the ‘Before’ films it is so successful because of the fact that subtly encourages audience involvement, in the way that the conversations these characters are having may not be too dissimilar to ones that anyone could have. These characters are talking about universal and down to earth issues that resonate with society and it never feels too glamorized, sure they are in these extravagant locations but they take their problems with them. It really brings the human element to these films and makes them even easier to appreciate.
‘Before Midnight’ is a film that can, so simply and subtly evoke so many different emotions from their audience. Whether it is happiness, sadness or humor and anger It’s all done in such a way that it never feels to orchestrated and emotionally manipulative. There were moments in the film that had me laughing out loud, Jesse eating one of the kids apples at the beginning; ‘’Ella, this is a family apple and I’m teaching you value of sharing, I love you honey’’, and moments that had me on the verge of sadness, Natalia’s speech about ‘’Passing through’’. It’s really beautiful when a film doesn't have to be contrived when taking you on an emotional journey. Ultimately, ‘Before Midnight’ is a portrait of unconditional love and the issues that arise from lifetime commitment.
Another great aspect of the ‘Before’ series is the social contrast between installments. Jesse & Celine’s three days in focus all take place in different decades so we get the illustration of society’s values in the 90’s, 2000’ and 2010’s. It’s so intriguing to watch the characters grow with the times yet keep that piece of them that made us love them in the first place. It’s also kind of funny to hear these characters mentions things like Skype and using IPhones.
I honestly was never really a fan of Ethan Hawke before I saw ‘Before Sunrise’, to me he was a simply a guy who was just there, not a bad actor but not one I really looked forward to seeing. The ‘Before’ films changed all that and I now absolutely love the guy. Hawke and Julie Deply’s on screen is almost unparalleled, the way these two actors form this incredibly believable relationship never ceases to amaze. There back and forth converses always feel realistic and, even after 18 years, I can’t think of a single moment in ‘Midnight’ that feels like these two are actually acting. Both Hawke & Deply are just amazing.
Ultimately, the only negative thing I can say about ‘Before Midnight’ is that makes me so anxious and overly excited for the next film which could properly be 8 or so years away. ‘Midnight’ was the only film on the horizon that I could see dethroning ‘Spring Breakers’ as my favorite film of 2013 and alas that has occurred. This whole review may just seem like hapless rambling about the film but I insist that it is simply that good. I can’t wait to see Jesse & Celine again…