28 June - 11 July 2013, DCA
Before Midnight is the long awaited third instalment in Richard Linklater’s series of films which began withBefore Sunrise and Before Sunset. These films together follow the twists and turns of a romance that first bloomed between two strangers conversing on a train. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, reprising the roles of Jesse and Céline, aid Linklater’s believable story with their powerful performances. The film is a superb addition to Jesse and Céline’s love story and maintains the freshness of the previous films with its undeniable link to the real. The film avoids the glossed over, picturesque, nauseatingly unoriginal storylines of most American romances. Instead, Before Midnight is somewhat reminiscent of the depiction of chance and innocence in David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945).
The Before series has thus far weaved a beautiful narrative of two people who fall in love over two chance encounters. The latest film portrays the difficulties they face in keeping their lives in tune with each other, as complicated and stubbornly diverse as they may seem at times. The lovers begin to quarrel as tensions between their differing wants and needs heighten. While in Greece, Jesse says goodbye to his son from a previous marriage who is travelling back to America to the full custody of his mother. Céline tries to ignore Jesse’s hints at wanting to move from Europe to be closer to his son and, from this moment, we see a change in both characters, both as individuals and towards each other. The film has philosophic moments, and enjoyable contemplations that make for a thought provoking love story. The climax occurs in a hotel where Jesse and Celine plan to share time alone away from their two daughters and their new friends in Greece. A romantically arranged evening turns into an onslaught of bickering when strains in their relationship begin to tighten. In the hotel room, Jesse and Céline are in each other’s arms; Céline’s dress is pulled down to her waist revealing a maternal, aged figure. Almost without warning, a few wrong words lead to arguments and Celine, especially, spills her fears. Her pain can be felt through the screen; the words ringing true with anyone who has been in a long term relationship, making the scene both painful and amusing to watch.
The film spins from philosophical pondering romance to passionate arguments resulting in anxious inferences which may leave the audience on the edge of their seat, or perhaps, like me, tearful. Like the previous instalments, Before Midnight left me thinking for days about the sacrifices that come with relationships and the choices we make within them. For me, it spoke honestly and thoughtfully about life’s obstacles and has a rather revealing outlook on how men and women act together and against each other. The actors are brilliant in their subtle disclosure of Jesse and Celine’s fears and desires. Linklater has yet again produced a film as thought-provoking as its predecessors, exposing the ways that love has of unnerving us all.