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Before Midnight Review: The Greatest Romantic Trilogy Concluded
The Before Midnight Review is a hard one to write because I’m left so speechless that gathering my scattered thoughts might take years.
I’ll be honest, cinema today is just disappointing to me. In amongst the truck loads of action movies with no soul and high budgets, “comedies” that are nothing more than bland cash grabs and thrillers that seem to misunderstand the definition of the word “thrill” it’s clear to see why I feel this way.
But then every so often a Before Midnight comes along and pulverizes, knocks down and kills what I’ve come to expect from money-thirsty movie studios.
Before Midnight follows the story of Jesse and Celine, who were star strucked lovers that by chance met on a train in Europe during the first movie (Before Sunrise). Back then these two were idealistic young lovers had nothing to lose.
10 years later we join Jesse and Celine again but this time in Paris. They’re in their 30’s in movie number two (Before Sunset) and both have commitments they did not a decade ago which prevent them from being together. This makes it difficult as they still have a strong connection and the sexual tension from the first movie is still there if not magnified even more.
Now, in Before Midnight, another 10 years later they are finally together and have two children. This is what they’ve always wanted. Both are much older and reminisce on their naive days when they met on that train. The conversations this film presents and problems with finally capturing such a lost, dreamy love is heart wrenching to say the least.
Well known in the Before series is the dialogue, which was written by both actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy along with director Richard Linklater. If you’re here for the action there is none, so go home.
This movie is the pinnacle of realism, there are fights and arguments, conversations about philosophy and meanderings along the way and family struggles of which most people who’ve ever been in love or that even have any emotions at all can understand.
The setting this time around is Greece, where Jesse and Celine are on a vacation with their twin children. The film opens in a very interesting way with Jesse’s son from his previous marriage. Which straight away sets up this tension he has with his ex-wife who lives back in the States and apple of his eye Celine whom he lives with in Paris.
Often shots in the film will merely be long takes of characters walking, or eating at a table. This all adds to the believability of these two characters as they interact and makes me feel like they really have been together for years.
A few minor characters also pop up along the way to add even more insight into their lives and give us a taste of what Jesse and Celine used to be like. The writing here is impeccable and often feels so real, so vivid that I had to question whether I was even watching a movie at all and not just peering into the lives of real, complex people.
Both actors have an incredibly magnetic and believable connection with each other which really shows on set. There’s a sexual scene about halfway through that most films would never ever dare include and although it might make some feel uncomfortable is completely necessary and welcoming in this day and age of fade-to-black-love-scenes.
Though nothing is over the top, nothing over done and no scene in Before Midnight goes longer than it needs to. If you haven’t watched the previous two films you’ll be perfectly fine here as there are no name drops or inside jokes that only fans would understand. You begin to catch on pretty quickly about how these two met and the problems they’ve had along the way.
There is so much heart in Before Midnight, so much pain and humor and everything else that constitutes a great art work. Most comedy films aren’t as funny as Before Midnight, which in itself is not a comedy but has moments so true to life that they just happen to illicit a chuckle.
Same goes for the drama and in particular a fight scene with Jesse and Celine that is outstandingly written and acted. It adds tension and drama by just having these two characters interact with each other, Before Midnight knows it can do this without any additional support from set pieces or action scenes or any of that.
Before Midnight is a character driven experience so if the characters weren’t interesting this would be a disaster. Far, far from it. The characters are so real and beautifully written, everything they say is interesting, even the funny asides. I refuse to spoil the story too much other that to say it is a true rollercoaster of emotion and by the time it ends you will not want to leave the theater.
I can’t find any problems at all with this movie, there’s not one flaw I can find here. Before Midnight goes for about 2 hours but in my mind, it went for all of five minutes because of how well-written, interesting and emotional Jesse and Celine are as people.
The ending leaves things quite open and up to the imagination of the audience which I simply adore. Before Midnight completes a trilogy of movies that will be looked back on as one of the greatest landmark trilogies in all of cinema and I feel this will be very well deserved.
I’d even be up for another Before movie that follows the events of 50 year olds Jesse and Celine but I enjoy how this has ended and feel very satisfied.
My recommendation and praise for the gem that is Before Midnight cannot go any higher than calling it a masterpiece, which is exactly what it deserves and more.