Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

There is something about watching Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy together on screen captured by Richard Linklater's astute camera work that just feels right. The conversations still three films later still amaze me with how completely engrossing each one is while also having a disarming amount of truth for not only the characters but also for an audience. With the effortless acting, unparallelled art of writing dialog along with a completely organic camera and editing every single frame just oozes truth about not only relationships but also about the human experience.

The first two films have had a certain degree of romantic idealism in them. There was always a great deal of care to make sure it was an honest bit of romanticism that was grounded in reality. We still see echos to that idealism with those wonderful conversations when they speaking of their dreams, achievements and desires together along with their existential thoughts. There is a familiarity and ease with each other with how they communicate or joke like two people very comfortable and very much in love. However Before Midnight sees some of that romantic idealism has faded away. Much more of the conversations are about practical things. A lot of what is said has passive aggressive connotations that seem to be both intended and also unintended. Even the jokes carry another sharper edge of truth. Everything even boils over into a huge argument where all of their resentments come out. Those arguments are so powerful and intense you start to worry you are seeing the couple disintegrate right before our eyes.

As much as we may want to deny or ignore it, this is all the function of time on relationships. And that is the brilliant thing about Before Midnight, we see how time can erode a bond between people by them simply being together. Where before the films revolved around them with no one else mattering, Before Midnight now starts to introduce side characters. Jessie's son for his other marriage, their twins and a whole dinner table of interesting people. And it is in those scenes when they, together show that their intimate time together alongside a family has now formed them into a unit. Their relationship feels warm and very solid in those moments. It is the time when they are alone where they encounter trouble. We used to watch them so relish just being alone together to speak of everything and nothing. Now with no plane to catch there is the infiniteness of their lives together which puts pressure on the idea that they don't see themselves as being those separate individuals anymore. The very thing that brought them together now highlights the bitterness that lies beneath.

That dinner time conversation about life and relationships with other couples was an interesting inclusion. A large scaled group conversation with multiple perspectives is something that is so foreign to this trilogy, but in this film fits in like a glove. The scene functions almost like a look into the relationship both past (a young and passionate couple), near future (slightly older couple that have pulled back from each other a bit) and two possible futures (one widowed woman who speaks of her aromatic struggle to remember her husband's face, another widower who talks about how him and his wife lived their lives separate). I was a bit disappointed that the function of technology on relationships was dropped after that scene, especially given their history. It did cry out for at least one conversation of what their lives might have been had there been cell phones or Facebook.

With each new film that Hawke, Delpy and Linklater put out together about Jesse and Celine I worry that this will be the one where they completely miss the mark. But instead they keep gaining more and more steam behind these richly textured characters. This has to be in considerations as one of the better pure trilogies of all time. In fact, I hope they don't stop here and we see another in 9 years time. There is still so much more to express and explore as they age along with their relationship.