REVIEW: Before Midnight (2013)

Theatrical Release Poster – Sony Pictures Classics

The following is a spoiler-filled review of Before Midnight — Directed by Richard Linklater.

When I started writing this review, I had watched all of these films twice. In what probably amounts to the course of 72 hours, I have seen all three films twice, and each time the series has managed to warm my heart, break it, and pick up the pieces in its last moments.

Before Midnight takes place nine years after the events of Before Sunset, and in the film Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) and Celine (played by Julie Delpy) are now on vacation in Greece with their children. Although all should be right for the family, the notion that Jesse may not be able to maintain his relationship with he and his ex-wife’s son turns their world upside down, as Celine has to decide whether or not she wants to give up her dream job for her husband’s relationship with his son from another relationship.

That love hurts is such a true saying that a popular song has made it trite and cliche, but I don’t think that a film series has ever managed to capture the effects of aging love over time as well as the Before Trilogy has. Before Midnight is the most painful of these films to watch simply because of how the hope that always at one point would return to each film seems so underwhelming when compared to the hard times that the film presents us with.

In Before Sunset, Celine thought back to how her parents handled fighting, and she remarked that her “parents have been together for 35 years and even when they have a bad fight they end up laughing like crazy.” This, when you watch Before Midnight, seems like the best case scenario once the first argument comes up.

In a truly thrilling but torturous hotel room scene, you just keep on holding onto the hope that Celine will walk back into the room, instead of storming off. She often returns, but then she suddenly doesn’t — and it is absolutely devastating. Micro-aggressions, built-up frustrations, nasty arguments, and whatnot; it is all there in a dastardly destruction of the hope for the perfect send-off for the people that have kept our attention over the course of these films.

In Before Sunrise, one of Celine’s first thoughts after having seen a bickering married couple exit the passenger car on their train from Budapest is to ask Jesse, “have you ever heard that as couples get older, they lose their ability to hear each other?”

What I am trying to say is that Before Midnight is the natural next step for the masterpiece that this film series is. What is interesting about this film when compared to the other ones is that while Hawke and Delpy’s performances are still exceptional, Before Midnight introduces some actual supporting characters whose worldviews and relationships speak to the place that the series’ central characters are in in a wonderful way — this is a crossroads for their individual lives and their relationship as a whole.

But if you wanted a victory lap for our reunited lovers, then that isn’t what you get here. This reminded me of the depressing but brilliant Blue Valentine, but, at the very least, we end on somewhat of a hopeful note at the very end of Before Midnight. Give me all the hope you got.

10 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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