Before Midnight Beautifully Caps Trilogy Capturing Life, Love
- Thursday, June 13, 2013
Editor's Note: This review and our Cautions section contain frank descriptions of relational intimacy and sexuality. This film and this review are not intended for a young audience.
DVD Release Date: October 22, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: May 24, 2013 NY/LA; June 14 wide
Rating: Rated R (for sexual content, nudity, and strong language throughout)
Run Time: 108 min
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
The trio of Before films are the most improbable movie trilogy of all time – and what a cinematic treasure it has become.
In 1995, Before Sunrise was a low-budget Sundance sensation about two twenty-something strangers meeting on a train in Europe. They spend the day and night together in Vienna and fall in love. The film ends with a beautifully unresolved "will they or won't they meet again" bit of tonal poetry.
Much to fans' surprise (and even fears), nine years later a sequel was released. 2004's Before Sunset not only saw Jesse (Ethan Hawke, The Purge) and Celine (Julie Delpy, The Air I Breathe) meet once again – this time on the streets of Paris for another one-day reconnection – but it also assuaged all worries that the first film’s perfect romantic kismet would be ruined. If anything, Sunset proved deeper and richer than Sunrise.
The success of the second led to hopes for a third. And now, nine years later again, those hopes have been realized as we find Jesse and Celine together in Before Midnight. If the first film was about the exciting romance of youth, and the second about young adulthood’s melancholic mix of romance and responsibility, the third is about the regret of choices made and not made, decisions that can’t be changed and are painful to deal with but must be. Love is still at the center but now so much more life has been lived, and consequences can be Love’s kryptonite.
Before Midnight finds Jesse and Celine spending a day among the beauty of rural, coastal Greece. The last time we saw them, Before Sunset was ending on yet another (beautifully) unresolved note about their relationship, such that the big question coming into this one was whether they’d spent the last nine years together or apart.
While that question is answered within the first ten minutes, discovering the answer is a superbly executed revelation for the viewer, so I won’t spoil it here, especially as it is equal parts subtle and dramatic. Indeed, fans of the first two films looking to maximize the emotional impact of this outing would best be served to avoid spoilers at all costs.
The basic premise, however, is the same: a lot of free-flowing, emotionally candid, and philosophically fascinating conversation between two people who love each other as they walk, sit, drive, and eat their way through the beautiful Mediterranean countryside. Yet while the first two films focused solely on Jesse and Celine's intimate bubble, Before Midnight includes some group conversation, with one at great length.
After a long drive that re-acclimates us to our beloved couple (now in their early 40s), Jesse and Celine share a community meal with good friends ranging in age from elderly to peers to a young college-age pair still fresh in the throes of love.
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