Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★★

Transitory. Reality kicks in, Jesse and Celine aren’t young anymore. They try to capture the feeling of Sunrise and even Sunset on their walk but it’s not quite there despite the unmatched chemistry between them. Their only getaway, their only real conversation in a long time doesn’t pan out like it did in ‘94. This movie showcases a moment when all the difficulties of life that they simply haven’t had the time to break down are finally pushed to the open. However, Linklater doesn’t break down their love. That is one element that isn’t transitory in their life. Instead, the conversations and arguments feel almost purifying (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? anyone?). Love has its ups and downs and magical nights in European cities can’t last forever but it doesn’t mean one argument will ruin it all.

Despite all the arguing in the third act, love is still present and it pains Jesse and Celine how difficult everything is now. There is nothing more heartbreaking in this series than when Celine claims she doesn’t love Jesse anymore and moments later Hawke’s voice almost falters when whispering “we even fell in love”. The seeds of these moments were planted in the first movie and now Linklater is here to reap what he sowed. If you think about how the first one starts with the couple arguing and Jesse and Celine judging them and this one ends with their own argument, it shows that no two people are ever what they think they will be or what you perceive them to be. It’s no doubt beautiful to follow the unforgettable night in Vienna but it’s definitely more rewarding to see the conversations evolve and see Jesse and Celine grow to revert the expectations they had of others and of themselves.

On the other hand Linklater also shows they’re a little different from the couples they talked about, like the ones who don’t hear each other anymore or the homes with no laughter. There is passion and liveliness between them and this film is probably the funniest in the trilogy. The car ride at the start, the sometimes awkward dinner scene and Celine’s bimbo bit, some of the lines in their big argument and the time travel stuff are hilarious. I already made one reference to Nichols’ masterpiece but since I rewatched that one yesterday as well, I have to mention that the comedy is definitely something both have in common. And I like to believe the endings of both movies are clearly optimistic.

Ranking a third installment in a trilogy is a difficult task because much of the emotional weight has built up in the span of three movies but I think this was the natural place to go and honestly I couldn’t rate this any lower than five stars. I think Before Sunset could very well be the perfect middle road, the perfect romance movie even on its own (not to say there is such things as objective and subjective “best” ‘cause that’s dumb), but I guess the masochist in me loves to torture myself with awful arguments in relationship movies too much to not claim this as my favourite of the three and one of my favorite movies of all time (other two are pretty close).

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