Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

Richard Linklater — Ranked

"Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through."

My triumphant finishing of the Before Trilogy ends on a rewatch. When I first watched Before Midnight back in 2013, I watched it merely to see what everyone was talking about since it was one of the more acclaimed films of that year. I had no idea of its place in a trilogy or any knowledge of the characters. As a result, it just seemed like a bunch of talking that went over my head.

Now, after having seen the rest of the trilogy and revisiting this one today, I deem it a worthy end to such a wonderful story (or is it the end? I'd love if Richard Linklater revisited this one down the line!). Linklater interested me with Before Sunrise and absolutely floored me with the magic that is Before Sunset and with this film he rounds out the trilogy by not only giving us some great moments with Jesse and Celine but also giving us some sense into their social lives and adding the new dimension of children into the mix and letting the actors loose on tackling these meaningful subjects.

Where Sunrise was about wooing your true love and Sunset was about rekindling an old flame, Midnight is about the struggles of marriage, parenthood and planning for the future. It's a fitting end to Linklater's trilogy on the wonders of monogamy. The conversations are inherently real and the acting by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is, once again, spot-on and true-to-life, dripping with authenticity during every exchange. It's great that Linklater still gives us some great Jesse and Celine moments in this but also introduces some friends of theirs to give us a break, per se, and let us see how they interact with other couples. For me, I could've done without some of the bits of conversations they have but, nevertheless, it represents Linklater paying more attention to their characters and not having the entire trilogy simply being conversations between two people.

Before Midnight is very concerned with the ups and downs of a marriage and, more specifically, the ups and downs of a marriage that involves children. Not only do Jesse and Celine have young twin daughters to take care of, but Jesse's son from a previous marriage looms large in their lives, as well. We never really meet Jesse's ex-wife and the mother of his son, Hank, but only encounter her through vitriolic words from Celine throughout the film. There is tension here and it has to do with Jesse wanting to be closer to his son during his formative years and the agony he feels living in Europe while Hank is living in Chicago with his mother. Linklater smartly starts the movie off by establishing this issue and it serves to slip a ticking time bomb under the surface of the film that eventually threatens to blow up the marriage of these two people we've so adored from the first two films. Where the first two movies were delightful romances, Before Midnight feels like a disaster movie in comparison as Linklater brings his characters to the brink of implosion, especially throughout the third act of the film.

I love how every film in the trilogy sort of has its own style in terms of the dialogue and different moods and tones, and it's all due to Linklater's keen, minimalist directing style and Linklater, Hawke and Delpy's rich, layered writing that bring these characters alive and make us identify with at least one thing about them. It's truly a group of films that charts the different stages of relationships, with their uncertainties, temptations, awkwardness, magic and tribulations.

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