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Julie Delpy.
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Before Midnight
Celine and Jesse go roaming, round 3

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This follow-up to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset finds roaming lovers Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) now together and with children, assessing their relationship on the last day of an idyllic family holiday in Greece. As they reflect on the curious history of their romance, latent tensions come to light.

Before Midnight

"Baby, you are going to miss that plane.” When we last saw Celine and Jesse — goo-goo-eyed and grooving to Nina Simone in her Parisian shoebox apartment — in 2004’s lovely Before Sunset, it seemed at once an end and a beginning. Were they on the verge of a lifelong romance salvaged from an unlikely second chance, or just the dirty weekend to end all others? We couldn’t know, but it seemed the right place to leave them all the same. The feelings left dangling by their chance night of Viennese passion nine years before in Before Sunrise had been addressed, if not resolved: it wasn’t quite closure, but when it comes to modern love, what is?

So the news that Richard Linklater and his stars/co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were planning a third date, another nine years on, inevitably stirred mixed emotions in fans. Sure, we’ve been dying to know if those two crazy kids made it in the end, but romantic cinema needs its little mysteries; one false, disillusioning move, and we could have the indie equivalent of The Godfather Part III on our hands.

If that’s been your concern, breathe easy — and maybe look away, since the questions answered and aroused by this delightful, insightful follow-up are best faced first-hand. Perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to Before Midnight is that, as early as its first exchange between the now fortysomething lovers, it feels like a sequel that was meant to be, not made on a whim. For all the first-kiss beauty of Before Sunrise, cinema is replete with great movies about falling in love; great movies that take on the less sexy pleasures (and considerable challenges) of staying in love are rarer birds. Here’s one.

Before you ask, yes, Jesse did miss that plane. So it’s a tease that this film opens with him in a tiny Greek airport, bidding an awkward farewell to his now-adolescent son as the boy returns to Jesse’s ex-wife in Chicago. Yes, ex-wife: that unseen obstacle from Before Sunset is now out of the picture, but where’s Celine? Fear not, she’s waiting outside in a hire car with their angelic twin daughters. Yes, Celine and Jesse evidently didn’t waste much time getting serious, and we’re joining them on the last day of a blissful family holiday.

As their familiar, affectionately argumentative banter starts up once more, we feel relief with a hint of malaise: if they’re happily living the dream, why are we here? No film can begin with a happy ending and stay there, after all. And sure enough, as the couple circle each other with line upon line of brilliant dialogue that feels no less authentic for being so beautifully wrought, it becomes clear that all is not well in paradise. Practical, professional and personal frustrations are pinching, and while Jesse remains the fecklessly romantic manchild he’s always been, Celine has matured (perhaps with reason) into a harder, more bitterly guarded soul. Delpy’s brisk, careworn performance is a marvel in itself, but taken with her work in the first films, it’s one of the most remarkable feats of slow-burn characterisation in all cinema.

As the film follows the day-in-a-life structure of its predecessors, passions and tensions escalate in a series of sometimes scaldingly intimate two-handed scenes. However, Linklater varies the formula by introducing outside characters into their world; a disorientating imposition at first, it makes the point that couples nearing 20 years of acquaintance cannot thrive on each other alone. By turns warm, mellow and excoriating, rather like the Mediterranean sun itself, Before Midnight is the most fitting extension — let’s not say conclusion — to this unique screen romance we could have asked for. Celine and Jesse forever. We hope.

A bit tarter than its predecessors, but not skimping on their woozy, chatty charm, this perfectly played, gently incisive film is a welcome new chapter in one of cinema’s most beguiling ongoing romances. See it with someone you’ve loved for some time.

Reviewed by Guy Lodge

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RE: Before Midnight

I wrote this (admittedly) very long piece for a friend's site last month, in anticipation of the release of "Before Midnight", in which I looked back at the previous films, as well as reviewing the newest installment. It was originally a three part piece, but I've blended it all together for an overview of Linklater's films. Warning: Contains Minor SPOILERS. E NAME OF LOVE: LINKLATER'S ROMANTIC ODYSSEY re two key moments in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise that have haunted me for ... More

Posted by Dude McNude at 10:50, 19 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Before Midnight

L: Coyleone Midnight (2013)o I went in to this film with very high expectations, having thought the first was great and adoring the second, I was ready for another fun and moving instalment in the lives of these two loveable, realistic characters. This turned out to be so much more. This time, the film and it’s amazing characters deal with long term commitment. This obviously isn’t something that hasn’t been done before in films, but it’s never been done with such heart and realism. ... More

Posted by ChudMonkey at 10:26, 19 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Before Midnight

Midnight (2013)o I went in to this film with very high expectations, having thought the first was great and adoring the second, I was ready for another fun and moving instalment in the lives of these two loveable, realistic characters. This turned out to be so much more. This time, the film and it’s amazing characters deal with long term commitment. This obviously isn’t something that hasn’t been done before in films, but it’s never been done with such heart and realism. While the other tw... More

Posted by Coyleone at 13:58, 03 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Before Midnight

The year of 1995 was the start of a wonderful love story as director Richard Linklater and co-writer Kim Krizan presented Before Sunrise, a classic boy-meets-girl drama starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine who meet on a train, had a one night stand during which a romance ensues. Nine years later, they reunite in Before Sunset as they rekindled their relationship, which ended on an ambiguous note on whether they got back together or not. Another nine years later… As Jes... More

Posted by R W at 17:46, 02 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hint of Bergman's scenes from a marriage, with a cassevettes feel.

I saw it last night with my wife. We adored it, but I understand your reaction entirely. For me it took a while to get into its groove. The driving scene didn’t feel quite right to me but on later reflection I like it as I think its intention was to show us Jesse and Celine as a long term couple, commenting on mundanity and the daily grind of life. It was realistic, just slightly less interesting as a result. However, I am still not overly keen at all on the dinner scene which felt ... More

Posted by Phil884 at 10:44, 27 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Hint of Bergman's scenes from a marriage, with a cassevettes feel.

In 1995, American student Jesse and French student met on a train and spent a day and night in Venice. Nine years later, they reunite when Jesse is in Paris promoting a book he wrote about their time in Venice. Now, the two are a couple with two twin girls. Jesse is struggling to maintain his relationship with his teenage son, Hank, who lives in Chicago with Jesse’s ex-wife. He has found success as a novelist, but Celine is at a career crossroads, considering a job in government. At the end of ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:43, 25 June 2013 | Report This Post

Hint of Bergman's scenes from a marriage, with a cassevettes feel.

Beautiful, actors at the top of their game, it's great to have them back. Typically real, funny, and true. Bit of a downer on marriage though! That could be its only weak spot- that there are plenty of films out there about troubled marriages, and it doesn't give a different spin on it- like before sunrise did with brief encounters.. I don't know how they'll survive this episode- the biggest cliff-hanger of the series! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stevos at 18:52, 21 June 2013 | Report This Post


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