Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

When I'd heard that Linklater, Delpy and Hawke were collaborating for the third time in their 'Before' series, I immediately thought it'd be a disaster. What made the first and second so charming is the fact that they built this romance right before our eyes. The movies were kind of in real time, and we as the audience went from finding these two characters interesting to falling in love with them as they fell in love with each other. It was never cliché, never insulting to our intelligence, their conversations were fascinating, their chemistry was glowing, and it even managed to make us think with some pretty important issues.

While Before Sunrise and Before Sunset were celebrated for its ability to have two people fall in love before our eyes, Before Midnight focuses a bit more on the aftermath of that. Celine and Jesse, after almost two decades of meeting on a train to Vienna, are now married with two children. They're on vacation in Greece and they're given a night stay in a hotel by their friends. On their way to the hotel they discuss everything from what they've been doing between the time we first saw them and now, as well as plans for their future.

It's difficult to write a lot about the movie without ruining much of what happens, but I will say that I experienced many strong emotions. There are some genuinely heart breaking scenes, some that put a smile on my face for a long time, some that made me feel nostalgic, confused, angry, and even resentful. Co-writes Hawke, Delpy and Linklater all know that these things make up what long term romance truly is.

Before Midnight is, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy. There are some truly thought-provoking topics brought up, but never shoved down our throats. For example, there's a conversation they have about long distance relationships and how technology has now made it very much possible for that to be a reality. With programs like Skype, we can talk face-to-face even on the go. The conversation spirals into a debate over whether technology will replace intimate encounters (which is strongly contrasted with Celine and Jesse's meeting in the first film). Both sides of the argument make strong points about the pros and cons of this inevitability, and we are the ones who need to decide what the most plausible answer is.

I always admired both the writing and the acting in the movies because Linklater and co. have to devise a way for each shot to last upwards of about 20 minutes without ever being boring, all while the two leads stay in character and memorize and regurgitate lengthy lines of dialogue. Both Hawke and Delpy are incredible in Midnight -- they still have the same amount of chemistry but now you can feel that these two have been partners for a long time. Each conversation has to be written in such a way that they need to discuss random, trivial things but also weave in moments that would explain to us what they have been up to in the last 9 years. It really is masterful work on the writing end. While Delpy and Hawke are great, it isn't until the last third that I really started to realize the genius of their work. The way they allow their emotions to flow very naturally from one major state to another is so seamless, you'd think you were a fly on the wall intruding in these people's lives. For me, they are both Oscar worthy but Delpy breaks my heart in such a profound way that now, a day later, I can't stop thinking about her performance. If there was any justice in the world, she'd be a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination.

Ultimately Midnight is about the difficulties of a long term relationship. It forces us to think about how the romance may have dissolved, but our love may not have. It forces us to face the fact that life itself makes us preoccupied with necessities while neglecting the fun things in life we always wanted to experience. It dares to make us wonder about how no one is perfect, and everyone goes through highs and lows when they're in love. All of this is put right in front of us in a powerful climax, much different from the first two instalments, leaving us to yet again decide the fate of the two characters, but for the first time, it's better for us as the audience to decide where they go ourselves.