Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

"You know what? The only time I get to think now, is when I take a shit at the office. I'm starting to associate thoughts with the smell of shit." - Celine

Oh, Linklater. Why do you so enjoy tearing out my heart and stamping on it before trying to fit it back into my open chest? The same goes for you, Hawke and Delpy! WHY?

I shouldn't be complaining. I enjoy having it done. Watching Celine and Jesse talk is bound to be one of those age-old cinematic past times that we will all indulge in over the years to come, and Before Midnight is no exception to the rule. There are moments of pure gold between the two here, particularly when Linklater falls back on the tradition of letting his two protagonists potter around cobbled streets or share methods of transport. However, when Linklater dabbles and changes his formula a little, the film falters slightly.

I'm referring to the scene in which eight (that's right, EIGHT, not two!) characters converse about literature, philosophy, love and penises. All of this is fine for a spell of time, but this is the first point in the trilogy where anything feels indulgent. As the scene progresses, the discussion borders on pretentious and rambling, and this is a startling surprise to find this amidst a series of pure magic. Dare I say it's almost a relief when it's over? I do.

However, Linklater is entirely comfortable with letting his camera lie with his favourite couple, and there, the film is at its most successful. The painfully drawn-out penultimate scene where you can see the very foundations of Celine and Jesse's love corroding away is one of the most gruelling scenes you're likely to see in a long time, with something as simple as nudity horrifying you. You've seen these characters develop up close, and now, at their most raw and intimate, you as a viewer watch through your fingers. The space of a hotel room feels like a cage, and there are few more claustrophobic moments in cinema out there.

Hawke and Delpy are reliably brilliant, but yet another layer has been added to their dense performances. Both looking physically exhausted while still possessing at least some of that youthful spark they had 18 years ago, their presence is a yearning for something that once was, and the frantic struggle to claw it back. It's all beautifully played, even if it is at times physically painful to observe.

While I think this is the weakest in the trilogy, this is still a film to savour. By no means an enjoyable watch, this is a satisfying and gut-wrenching piece of work that you won't forget for quite a while.

Before Teatime next, guys?

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