Before Midnight

 ​18 years later for the characters and 9 years later since Before Sunset, writer/director Richard Linklater returns to his beloved characters Celine and Jesse as they head into yet another difficult phase of their lives. Winning raves at Sundance, where it premiered, and with Linklater coming off the highly successful Bernie, Before Midnight is already earning Oscar buzz for its screenplay and possibly even its actors. I wasn’t really a fan of the previous ‘Before’ films, but this one has something more urgent and final than the other three and that appealed to me more than the rest. Maybe it’s also because in 2013 Hawke and Delpy are much more accomplished and polished actors and, in this case, writers.

​Jesse (Hawke) is about to send his son back to his mother in the States, as much as it pains him. His son just told him he has the best summer of his life and Jesse fears he has already missed the most important part of his teenager's life. Jesse and Celine (Delpy) have twins and still live in Paris together but have been vacationing for six weeks in Greece, where they walk around ancient ruins and discuss their past, present and future. Jesse wants to entertain the idea of them moving their family to America to spend more time with his son, but Celine says that would be asking her to give up her independence, which begins a roller coaster of emotion and a deeper understanding of their love for each other.

​“You are the one who will not shut up!” Jesse yells at his wife in one of their many arguments which highlight the film's only tension. These films have always been long conversations made carefully into a film. One moment they are having a romantic interlude with food and sunsets and the next Celine is storming out saying her love for her husband is gone. Sprinkled with enough good and interesting moments throughout, Before Midnight is certainly not the most entertaining of Linklater's films, which all seem to be starkly different from each other.

​There are so many good one liners in the film that it would reduce the film to spell them out here out of context. Delpy has long been known for her knife like wit and often over the top jokes, but here it really works nicely as she tries to get under Jesse’s skin. The setting for the film is stunning and how Linklater holds such long takes so you really get to experience the real time sunset and the evolution of these characters, or perhaps the conclusion is really interesting. However, this isn’t a film for everyone and if you can’t appreciate sparse but intelligent writing you will find this exhausting and dull.

Final Thought – Third time is the most charming.

Grade B-  

By: Dustin Chase

The latest film from Richard Linklater follows up on his two previous films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, all three of which tell the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meeting, falling in love, and in this latest version, “surviving” marriage in their forties.  In the first feature, Linklater created the characters and wrote the story with Kim Krizan.  In this version, Hawke and Delpy wrote the dialog with Linklater.  It comes across so real, one has to believe that all three contributed based on their personal experiences.  

 Filmed in Greece, where the couple is vacationing with their children, the cinematographer Christos Voudouris gives us a scenic trip to the countryside, made even more real by a generous sprinkling of Greek actors.  Jesse and Celine have twin golden-haired daughters, and Jesse’s son by his first marriage has spent the summer with them.  The film opens with Jesse talking with his son Hank (well played by Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) at the airport as he sends him back to Chicago and his mother.  Hank comes up frequently in conversations between Jesse and Celine.  Jesse continues to feel guilt about not being near Hank, and although Celine loves Hank, she is not prepared to make the sacrifice of moving to Chicago.  They currently live in Paris, Celine’s native city.

 Against the backdrop of gorgeous scenery, including interesting ruins, Jesse, Celine, and their friends talk endlessly about life in general, men and women, love and commitment, aging and death.  So the filmgoer should be forewarned that this is the movie.  In the beginning, when Jesse and Celine are with their friends, the philosophizing is peppered with humor and fond memories.  But when the couple ends up in their hotel room, what starts out to be a romantic interlude turns into slogging through marital issues.  As noted above, these conversations reflect the experiences of most couples who have been together for years, but the length of time spent in the film makes it rather exhausting—like a 2-3 hour therapy session.  In reality, of course, it is only about a half-hour of the film.  

 I found Before Midnight to be more interesting than enjoyable.  The dialog is well written, but endless conversation without much action becomes tedious over time.  The first part of the film with eight people talking about life and reminiscing is thought provoking and humorous, as is the couple’s walk through the ruins.  Jesse says, “How long has it been since we wandered around just bullshitting?”  Indeed, most of us don’t take the time for that these days.  But after they get to the hotel, they get down to the nitty gritty of their relationship, which is hard to watch, until the very end when artful persuasion saves the day.

 This is a movie for people who like to talk and think about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Grade:  B+  

Dr. Donna Copeland’s