For most film fans, the first two instalments are essential viewing and are quietly understated in terms of their respective popularity. Unfortunately, most people don’t realise that they represent two parts of cinema’s probably most enduring love story – one that is so natural, it is sometimes hard to believe that it is a figment of someone’s imagination.
Before Midnight is the third film in the series and it is revealed that the then-newly successful author Jesse (Ethan Hawke) never caught that plane whilst watching Celine (Julie Delpy) dance to Nina Simone in her shoebox Parisian apartment. Instead, they are now parents to twin girls, holidaying in Greece. As both characters are at a crossroads in their lives, they begin to reassess their lives together almost twenty years after that fateful meeting on a train to Vienna.
Seeing the collective creative genius of Linklater, Hawke and Delpy back on the big screen is a welcome return – even after the last two films, there is this constant need for closure as to whether Jesse and Celine truly belong together. However, the fact that you see the two of them together within the last ten minutes of the film spoils that ‘did he/didn’t he?’ moment. So, that anticipation that was felt at the beginning of Before Sunset is missing.
However, Hawke and Delpy sink into their roles like a favourite sweater – their characters talk endlessly with such ease and in turn, they retain that natural chemistry that made their will they/won’t they relationship so enduring. Together with Linklater’s numerous Steadicam shots, watching this couple reminisce about their younger selves and their ambitions for the future does not create a sense of intrusion, but that of a spectator to their relationship.
The true gem in not only this film, but that of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is the example it presents as a great romantic film. Huge gestures, flowers, chocolates and romantic moments in the rain do not necessarily guarantee true romance; they just cover it up all the cracks that spoils an illusion of a real relationship. Thankfully, Linklater allows his stars to be as emotive as they can on-screen, laying all the insecurities and realities of being in a couple for everyone to see. The result is smart, realistic and unpretentious.
Painfully honest, refreshing with wonderful lead performances, Before Midnight is an intimate and charming comedy drama. It’s time to fall in love again once more.