Scott Anderson’s review published on Letterboxd:
I feel weird referring to Before Midnight as the final film of the amazing love story because no one has actually ruled out the possibility of returning to do it again in 2022, when the characters will be 50 years old. If this does indeed conclude the wonderful romance of Jesse and Celine, at least they went out on top. All three films are beautiful, inspired works, but Before Midnight is just a step ahead of the others, the perfect conclusion to a trilogy of masterpieces.
The film falls into a bit darker territory than the first two, but that is to be expected. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset were about falling head over heels in love at a young age, and then reconnecting after years apart, both of which are scenarios that are typically associated with happy thoughts. Before Midnight is our first glimpse at these characters experiencing a true relationship, now nine years actually together and raising twin daughters while Jesse deals with the pain that comes from being away from his son from his previous marriage. These are real problems people face and the love shared between our two leads has never felt more believable because let's be honest, life isn't perfect. Sure, it may be easier to watch two people smile and kiss and say absolutely the greatest thing at the greatest time, but I prefer the realism of how raw and painful love can be.
The entire film has the similar sublime flow of the first two films, except something about the setting of the outdoor sequences makes them feel even more vibrant and alive this time around. The real shining moment of Before Midnight is ironically when it is at its darkest and most heartbreaking, the sequence that takes place in their hotel room. There is an energy and a passion during that scene that is so believable that it literally makes me uncomfortable, like I am watching something I shouldn't. The dialogue is so on point and the emotion seeps out of every single second we sit there and continue to watch something that was once so beautiful slowly unravel.
The amazing thing Linklater achieves though is that from this ugly feeling of sadness that felt like a punch to the gut, he manages to charm us all over again with a final scene that is impossible not to extract a smile. While some of the film may be hard to watch, when the camera drifts back and we live that final frame, I know I am left wanting more. As long as this level of quality and care went into making these films, I never want to completely say goodbye.