Many swoon over the charming romantic incisiveness of Richard Linklater’s preceding two Before films, and rightfully so. In perfectly capturing the impulsive blossoming of a would-be relationship to the complicated formation of it, these initial efforts have not only exposed us to an emotionally authentic union – we’ve been granted the privilege of growing along with them for the past eighteen years. Once again steeped in unparalleled engagement via intelligent discussion and character interplay, Before Midnight follows suit as we catch up with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as their new family approaches the tail end of a Greek holiday.
In continuing almost two decades’ worth of excellence, Before Midnight doesn’t miss a beat as the series’ core components appropriately and immediately affect the proceedings. The couple – now in their early 40s – have a pair of twins and live a happy life together, bickering on occasion as the complications of Jesse’s divorce and shared custody of his child rear their ugly heads. This aside, an early discussion tackling the diversity and ubiquity of every aspect of human relationships is fascinating – people of all ages albeit from (somewhat) similar walks of life, eloquently articulating fond memories of love found and lost (tragically or not), the questionable existence of “true” love and the differences between young and old.
Identifiably scripted as the aforementioned interplay is, the chemistry between leads is so disarmingly authentic, both in plain view and as life stories and concerns about growing old together are alternately discussed. Just as Before Sunrise did with viewpoints from aspiring, lustful yet intelligent young lovers; Before Sunset with their subsequent catching up and rekindling the magic of their fateful first meeting, Before Midnight further refuels my desire to see this romantic fantasy fulfilled. Alas, love is a battlefield, and bumps will always be found along the road to our own individual fates.
As I feel heightened emotions flood my psyche as I wrap this up, let it be know that Before Midnight is the pinnacle of authenticity, passion and sophistication within the realm of romantic drama. Laughs are had and tears fall, but Jesse and Celine are – to me – forever cinema’s greatest contemporary couple. With movingly expressive bits of dialogue and interaction remaining seemingly infinite, the film paints a gratifying portrait of this complicatedly miraculous relationship while ending a cinematic legacy on the highest note. If I could thank Delpy, Hawke and Linklater in person, I would do so with a group hug, because this trio of films is perfectly reflective of these individuals’ union and maturation over time, Before Midnight serving as the icing on an already delicious cake.