Jack Cunliffe’s review published on Letterboxd:
The 'Before' trilogy is possibly the most magical venture in cinematic history, and it's completely unique. From the tentative start in Sunrise, where Jesse and Celine first met in Vienna, to the more grounded but still romantic characters in Sunset, to Midnight, where Jesse and Celine are officially grown up and questioning love the way they used to think of it. All of these films combine together to create something truly wonderful. It's so much more heartwarming than any romanticized Hollywood love stories because it feels so authentic. As Jesse says to Celine in Midnight at one point, this is real life. And it isn't perfect. But it is real.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy know each other inside out and without their delightful chemistry, this whole franchise would never work. You need them to be completely comfortable with each other and to be able to tease each other, to say sweet nothings to each other, to get angry with each other, to have passionate arguments, to make each other laugh and, yes, to make love to one another. The fact they can do all these things and more and actually make you believe every single one is nothing short of extraordinary. Both of them should receive the best acting awards at next year's Oscars but I'll be surprised if either one is even nominated.
As with Vienna in Sunrise and Paris in Sunset, Midnight is set against an unfairly beautiful backdrop. This time, it's in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece. Ancient stone buildings, cobbled streets, a boardwalk promenade, a calm sea. It's an idyllic place to stay in and Jesse & Celine make the most of their stay there.
The film is comprised of a few long takes, and each one is just as good as the other. A drive from the airport, a dinner discussion with other couples of varying ages, a heated debate in a hotel room. Each scene makes the couple the focal point and this is the way it should be. Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have created a stunning finale to their remarkable trilogy here. I won't even say it's the best one. They're all perfect and they're all very much impressions of different eras in Jesse and Celine's lives.
Before Sunrise encompassed the beginnings of a new love. From the moment Jesse noticed Celine on the train, one knew this was the start of something special. The two spent all night together traversing the streets of Vienna, and they fell head over heels in love with each other. They were young, and they felt like they had all of eternity to do whatever they wanted. Not a care in the world. Jesse had to return to America though, but they arranged to meet 6 months later.
Before Sunset came a full 9 years later. Alas, that meeting 6 months after Sunrise never happened, but a not-so-coincidental encounter in Paris sees Jesse and Celine spend time together and they instantly reconnect. This time, they're older and more realistic about life. In fact, Jesse is married and a father! But they still remember that illusive night in full detail and there's a special spark between the two. They don't want to lose each other again and the film ends on a wonderfully ambiguous note.
Fast forward another 9 years and we're in Greece. Before Midnight takes on Jesse and Celine at their oldest and most mature yet. Gone are the illusions of eternal love and their romanticized visions of life itself. They bicker, they aim sharp comments at each other, they're settled down now. They're not impressionistic youths anymore but they're still lovers and the chemistry between them is just as strong as it ever was.
Before Midnight is a fitting conclusion (if no more films come out) to a remarkable trilogy. It took 18 years, but we're finally here. What a perfect example of how truly unique and creative cinema can be. Jesse and Celine certainly made an indelible impression on me. I can't wait to revisit the trilogy in full, and I implore anyone who has not yet done so to give this trilogy a chance; it's a decision I highly doubt you will regret.
To Jesse and Celine, the greatest couple in cinematic history!