Mary Conti’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review contains no notable spoilers for Before Midnight, but does talk about Before Sunrise/Sunset
For the past several days, I have come back and forth struggling to review Richard Linklater's Before Midnight. I went through the various stages of formulaic review openers that ran through my head. "What is love?" I thought of starting one review with. No, too generic and pretentious. Not authentic enough. A review about my personal life in relation to this film? No, I want to talk about why this film is great, not me. A generic rundown of the film? This film is more special than that.
It is such a hard film to write about, not due to it lacking simplicity. What has made the Before... series so longstanding is how simple they are. Reviewing these films is like reviewing yourself. Even if we haven't had the same exact experience as Jesse and Celine, we all have had some form of attachment to another individual like they do, and all the pleasures and strife that comes with two different people trying to be one.
The Before... series is a film about two people going through various stages of their lives. In Before Sunrise, we meet Jesse and Celine as they are young and traveling. They are more ambitious and so is the night they share. In Before Sunset, they have settled more into their lives, but still contain some of their youth. Their afternoon spent together is quicker, but they talk about how they have lost some of their ambition, how not meeting up after the events of Before Sunrise tore them up. At the end of Before Sunset, Jesse decides to miss his plane, and at the beginning of Before Midnight we find out that they married and now have two girls.
Things are different for the two characters, but the connection is still there. Yet, with two different people come different problems, no matter how much they try to work it out. The talks have become less ambitious and more settled. They talk more about their everyday life than bigger ideas, but they've also become more personal with each other, both positively and negatively.
Linklater is an amazing filmmaker, one of America's bests, yet his greatest strength has always come with dialogue and actors. His Before... series which he has cowrote with Hawke and Delpy is so authentic that the typical romantic tropes found here are so genuine and we feel their love. Jesse and Celine are in many ways one of the most real screen couples I have encountered. It's an entirely different beast than the previous two films, but it's also more true.
With Before Midnight the authenticity pours out of the screen destroying the barriers. We are let into that small world known as love that comes between two individuals. These aren't just actors pretending anymore. This is a replication of something real. Something real to Richard Linklater. something real to Ethan Hawke, something real to Julie Delpy, and something real to us.