Jason Huang (黃擎元)’s review published on Letterboxd:
The fantasy's over.
I tried to watch each individual film of the trilogy non-consecutively, so that each viewing would be at least a few days apart to simulate a large time gap, but this is literally the last day the theaters are playing this series, so I had to check it out today.
Man, this was a tough watch. Gone is the magical tone of the first two. There are the walk-and-talk scenes that are also prevalent in the first two films, but while the walking and talking in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset brought these characters closer together, in Before Midnight, it leads to conflict, resulting in a really long scene of them arguing.
I think what makes this film especially effective is what they say while they're arguing. It's a dramatic scene of course, but it also works as something that reveals some of the details of their lives for the last nine years. The things they say genuinely makes it feel like both partners want to explain what they feel would be best for the relationship and themselves, rather than both of them blindly trying to hurt each other. This movie, more than its predecessors, is about the hard work it takes to stay in love. It's a giant middle finger to that line from that one famous movie (I forgot which one LOL) where the dude says "love means never having to say sorry", because, in reality, both partners have to make sacrifices to make their relationship work.
And it's really impressive is how funny and sad the argument is, at the same time. Of course, with a Chinese audience, there's a bit of a disconnect since they're reading subtitles, but there was a lot of laughter during that extended hotel room scene. I think it feels realistic too, since they're not consistently yelling at each other the whole time. There's a rise and fall in their argument, moments where they would calm down for a bit before they bring up another issue. I know some people find the ending a tad underwhelming (or even problematic), but I found it utterly moving.
I almost want to say this is my favorite of the series. Unlike the first two, it's almost "unpleasant" to watch, but it's an extremely emotional experience for me. Ultimately, I can't really choose, but I adore the way this film builds on the first two, and even makes references to them. Honestly the perfect trilogy.
It's 2022 next year. Don't think Linklater plans on making another film in this series, and I don't think it needs another one. However, if he decides to make a fourth film, I'll be there to watch Before 4:30 AM opening day though.