Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★★

"Like a sunrise or sunset... anything so ephemeral. Just like our life. We appear, and we disappear. And we are so important to some... but we are just passing through."

***

Before Sunrise ended with a collection of quiet, static, shots of all the places in Vienna where Jesse and Celine had stopped by throughout the film, during the long, sleepless, magic night of their first meeting.

Before Sunset mirrored its predecessor, by then beginning with a collection of shots of all the places Jesse and Celine would visit, this time in Paris, over the course of their belated, bittersweet reunion.

Before Midnight upends this pattern when it then delivers its heart-piercing third variation of that montage theme, by very nearly ending everything with a collection of shots of the interior of that dreaded Greek hotel room Jesse and Celine were desperate not to go to.

The Vienna montage was aglow with their youthful romantic nostalgia, luminescent and awash in the morning sun, the past twenty-four hours now a fresh, fond memory, the future both painfully uncertain, yet still full of possibility and promise.

The Paris montage was laden with fateful anticipation, and the foreshadowed feeling that their reunion would draw an inexorable pull on them to keep following one another, to stay together, and to never let go of one another again, no matter the cost.

And finally, the Greece montage hangs heavy with a looming mournful agony, the soft sunlight and wide-open bohemian cityscapes replaced by the cold, confrontationally confining walls of a single room, the romance and fantasy of the years gone by now given way to reality and consequence.

But then again...
...love - true, lasting, honest, warts-and-all, capital-L Love - doesn't begin at sunrise, and end at midnight...
...it doesn't just cease to be, or come to a halt with the crushing finality of a full stop...
...and it doesn't exist in a vacuum, encased in the amber of specific times or places.
The past informs the present, and the present learns from the past, in order to build the future.

(Time is a flat circle, and all that.)

So even though Before Midnight is the most brutal, most bitter, most adult entry in Richard Linklater's, Ethan Hawke's, and Julie Delpy's magnificent overall Before saga...

...it's also the most perfect way they could have possibly concluded the trilogy.

Not by giving us what we thought we wanted, but by giving us what we didn't know we needed.

We may have wanted Jesse and Celine to forever be hopelessly head-over-heels for one another in the most aspirational movie romance in the history of cinema...
...but we needed to see that even these most star-cross'd of lovers can verbally brawl tooth-and-nail, saying the most horrendous, puerile, unforgivable things to one another, and still emerge from it all with the true core of their mutual love left bruised and weathered by time and circumstance, but nonetheless still firmly intact.

Masterpiece?
It's a word perhaps thrown about too casually, too often... but when it's posited in the same breath alongside Richard Linklater... well, I reckon the word suits just fine.

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