Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★★

I knew from the moment that Linklater inserted the shot of them walking to the same tempo, yet out of step, that the third act of this film was coming.

The squabbles prior to this moment seemed innocent enough, honestly. I sympathize with Jesse's guilt over not being able to raise his child; and I also sympathize with Celine's fear that Jesse's desire to move back to the States will lead to their separation. These are both valid concerns which, it seems, they can handle as the couple I saw in Before Sunset can. But there are deeper issues here, and much lies beneath the surface.

Do I believe that Celine is maybe a little too fearful that Jesse wants to confine her? Sure, but Jesse does himself no favors by constantly proving her right. While his arguments he provides for both the pain he feels over losing his son and the toxic way Celine addresses Hank's mother are valid, the way in which he completely dismisses her concerns about the stability of their relationship is, arguably, more toxic; and frankly, I share her concerns. Some of the things he says in this film are blatant emotional abuse. I won't get into the battle of who is right and who is wrong--because sometimes they're both wrong, sometimes they're both right, sometimes one or the other is right, and ultimately this is not a debate central to the point of the film, in my opinion. It's about how these two have continued their lives. And they've reached a crossroads, it seems: in my opinion, Jesse, despite all that he says, does seem to think that he is thebetter person in their relationship; and despite what she says, Celine feels trapped--both by her kids and Jesse. And this move to Chicago epitomizes this feeling that Jesse wants to change her--despite the fact that he claims the one thing he'd change about her is her desire to change him. They're both masters of projection. She even alludes to this claustrophobia in the earlier, happier scenes. When she feels his touch at night, she imagines herself underneath the molten ash of Pompeii. I don't think Linklater, Delpy and Hawke could have provided us a better character moment than that one brief exchange. Moving forward, for this couple, will require them to heal these wounds. And while it's possible--many relationships have survived worse--it's going to be a tough road ahead.

EDIT: Okay but seriously, if you just look at that one moment where they're calm and Celine explains her viewpoint without being interrupted, I believe she makes such a strong argument that it's hard to argue that she's not right. I understand his problems--they're real, they're valid--but on the topic of Hank, she makes a strong point, and it's one with which I agree.

If the last two were perfect, then this one is divine. No film better encapsulates the pain of a relationship which seems like a fragile glass sitting on a countertop's edge, just waiting to shatter after it free-falls.

100. By my estimation, for what this trio was trying to accomplish, this is literally a perfect trilogy. I wouldn't change a frame--as much as some of them pain me.

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