Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

Having watched all three of the Before films pretty much back-to-back I'm going to use this review to review not only the newest entry but the trilogy as a whole. I hadn't actually intended to watch the first two films in time to catch the newest entry at the cinema, but immediately on completing Before Sunrise I felt absolutely compelled to track down Sunset, and then subsequently Midnight straight after that. To me the 24 hours I spent between films felt like an eternity, and the amount I was looking forward to Before Midnight after knowing Jesse and Celine for just 3 days was remarkable. The fact that there are lots of people who have literally grown up with these characters in real time, and waited 18 years for this third entry, is quite amazing, and I can only imagine that their connection with these two wonderful characters is infinitely deeper than mine.

But the beauty of this trilogy is the instant rapport that the script and the characters create. As the films progress it feels less and less like a filmed romantic drama, and more like a window looking into the lives of a real life couple. I can't say I've ever seen such natural and beautiful chemistry between two characters (or indeed two actors) in a film before. So often romantic stories in films seem just that: stories. Unrealistic fairytales with people that are just too perfect. Jesse and Celine seem like genuinely real people and their instant romance is entirely believable, and while in Sunrise especially there is a slightly fantastical romantic feeling, it remains grounded in reality and the ending where the characters are separated is a direction which 99% of other romance films simply would not take.

Before Midnight is very slightly different to the first two in that there are a handful of other characters who are actually given a chance to speak, but in just 1 or 2 scenes they are instantly given deep personalities and their inclusion in the film seems perfectly natural and in keeping with the tone of Jesse and Celine's long conversations. Midnight also differs greatly in that it is extremely confrontational; the hotel room scene takes you through a whole range of emotions as at first you laugh nervously believing the characters are merely play-fighting before there is an explosion of pent-up rage and frustration. It reaches a point where you're almost begging for them to stop and kiss and make up. It's a side of the characters we haven't seen in the first two films and as the argument escalates, so does the level of tension and the threat that these are problems that cannot be overcome. But the point of this scene isn't merely to give the film a different edge, it's a natural progression of the relationship and like pretty much every scene in the trilogy, feels real.

It might just be because I've watched the films so close to each other, but I honestly cannot separate them. Not one stands out as the best, nor one as the worst. They are all remarkable feats of storytelling and acting, and probably have to go down as one of the finest and most consistent trilogies ever made. If pushed to an answer I'd say that I actually enjoyed the films more as they went on, but I think this could be put down to simply spending more time with the characters and getting to know them better. Either way it's fairly irrelevant; they are all absolutely fantastic and a testament to what great dialogue and performances can bring to modern films.