Before Midnight was by far the most anticipated sequel of 2013 within the art house community (even more so than The Smurfs 2!), reuniting director Richard Linklater and stars Julie Delply and Ethan Hawke after 9 years. The formula from the first two instalments remains the same: it’s all about Céline and Jesse talking.
After a mediocre opening scene between Jesse and his son from an earlier marriage, you are instantly back where Before Sunset left you. The incredible chemistry between Hawke and Delply (who are credited as co-writers) is still there and as strong as always. We learn that after their second meeting in Paris, they got married and had twin girls, and that they are currently on holiday in Greece. Unlike the first two films, we meet other characters (friends whom they are staying with), albeit only shortly.
As we listen to Céline and Jesse, we realize that they are not the same people than they were nine years ago. They have matured (they’re 41 now) and have a different outlook on love, sex and life in general. They’re marriage is not perfect. Céline in particular doesn’t really seem happy about her professional life and wants to move to Paris, which would mean that Jesse would have to leave his son who lives in America. As they argue, jokingly at first, and then more and more intense, you feel their pain as they keep talking past each other.
The most important thing about the film is that you completely believe in these characters (even if you may disagree with them or don’t like what they’re saying). The dialogue is extremely intelligent and carefully crafted, but at no point does it feel forced or unnatural. Linklater is very restrained in his direction, using long takes, in order to give the actors room to perform, and they deliver brilliantly.
Hawke and Delply form one of the best onscreen couples in film history andBefore Midnight is an intelligent and romantic (a combination you unfortunately don’t see too often) character study. Only nine years to go until Before 4; I’ll be the first in line.