“Before midnight” is like an old poem that resonates deeper with time—and persuasively proves how insightful conversations can be good for the soul. With Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke returning to wrap up the star-crossed tale of Celine and Jesse, the third installment of Richard Linklater’s enchanting romantic franchise is also the first serious Oscar contender this year!
It’s been 18 years since Jessie and Celine’s fateful meeting on a Vienna-bound train (“Before Sunrise”), and nine years after he missed his plane at the end of “Before Sunset”—and it looks like the attractive duo has successfully defied the odds to find their own storybook ending.
Jesse has since divorced his wife and relocated to Paris, where he lives with Celine and their adorable twin daughters. He has found his niche as a novelist, while she has parlayed her strong opinions into a career in environmental advocacy. But, how has time changed them? Are they the same person they were in their youth?
Celine muses, “We always think we’re evolving—but, the truth is, we can’t change that much.” Yes, the sobering realities of life are now evident in the creases on Jesse’s otherwise boyish face, and there’s more heft to Celine’s waifish countenance. Life, after all, doesn’t stop after a couple promises to live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, it is no fairy tale, either. The movie follows the seemingly happy family on the last day of their six-week holiday in idyllic Greece. This time, the conflict doesn’t just arise from the chatty pair’s contrasting existentialist musings or bohemian concerns that rely heavily on serendipitous solutions and resolutions.
War of words
In no time, the low-level tiff escalates into an alternately hilarious and heartbreaking war of words
—especially after Jesse subtly broaches the idea of moving the family to Chicago, where his 13-year-old son lives with his bitter ex-wife!
True, the characters talk a lot about life’s little mysteries, but they don’t feel overindulgent because those scenes are anchored on Hawke and Delpy’s time-honed rapport and raw honesty. Even the movie’s little-known supporting actors turn in indelible portrayals that help demystify the ephemeral nature of human existence—their contemplative but “relatable” musings linger with you long after the closing credits roll.
As “talkies” go, you won’t find a movie that’s as thoughtful and exhilaratingly entertaining as this!
Hawke is outstanding, although he mistakes an unkempt look for intensity—but, the Oscar-worthy Delpy turns in a pitch-perfect characterization that will break your heart, as she juggles a myriad of emotions with stirring clarity.
If the film’s frisky first half captures the fizzy ebullience of Celine and Jesse in their younger years, its relentlessly unpredictable second half demonstrates how too much familiarity can breed contempt—and how genuine affection and deceptively harmless banter can just as easily turn into acrimony!