Cole Bradley’s review published on Letterboxd:
So there's a scene in Before Midnight that's really stuck with me.
It's the scene where Jesse sits and talks with his friends about the book he's working on. And it's a scene that's stuck with me for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's the only scene in the trilogy that doesn't directly relate to Jesse & Celine as an item. There's only two other scenes that aren't built around the two of them interacting, and even then both those scenes directly tie into their relationship (the opening of Sunset, in which Jesse talks to the crowd about their night, and the opening of this, in which Jesse talks to his son from his earlier marriage).
But this scene is just Jesse and his friends talking about life and the creative process. It feels out of place, but I truly think it's the most important scene in the movie. Because this scene hammers home one of the key points about this trilogy.
Jesse is obviously based on Richard Linklater. Obviously. But it's never been clearer than in this scene. When he was talking about how everyone confuses his two novels because they're called "This Time" and "That Time" or the long speech he gives about the novel he's working on that sounds like the logical meeting point between Slacker and A Scanner Darkly. It was like a veil had been lifted and the autobiographical nature of the character became truly evident. And that realization hit me like a punch in the gut.
But before I explain why, it's storytime.
Before Sunrise is a true story. Kind of. Richard Linklater met a woman named Amy Lehrhaupt in Philadelphia in 1989 and spent the night walking around the city and talking with her. They kept in touch, but the spark just died, and the night clearly meant more to him than it did to her. So he wrote Before Sunrise as his way of communicating how profoundly important that night was to her. The only problem was that she died in a motorcycle accident shortly before he started shooting.
So this scene made this story start racing through my head, and I came to a truly tragic realization:
Richard Linklater has, through this trilogy, created an alternate universe where he and Lehrhaupt ended up together.
And they aren't happy.
I don't want to overstate the misery in this film, because I think people have been, and there's a lot of joie de vivre in this film, but when shit gets ugly, it gets ugly. This is some of the rawest and angriest fighting I've ever seen, and it works because it's so damn honest. And it's tempered with some beautiful humor and love and just a reminder as to how wonderful these characters are, which only serves to make the fighting that much worse.
I don't need to tell you Before Midnight is a masterpiece. You know Before Midnight is a masterpiece. Richard Linklater is the best in the world. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are two of the greatest actors of their generations. Jesse & Celine are some of the best characters in the history of film. Everything is firing on full cylinders. It's pointless to keep talking about it. It's not supposed to be talked about. It's supposed to be experienced.
And oh my God that ending. A lazy man would have ended the film ten minutes before Linklater does. He knows better. Because he's the best director in history.
Can it just be 2022 already?