Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamous Davey-Fitzpatrick, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Walter Lassally, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delphy & Kim Krizan
After watching the last instalment of Richard Linklater’s “Before” series last night, I didn’t know what to think. Ultimately, I decided to sleep on it so I wouldn’t be biased when I reviewed it. But after spending most of the day thinking if I should give it a lower score, I found myself back in the same spot. That spot was where Jessie (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first fell in love almost two decades ago. And that is actually why I loved “Before Midnight”. The four brilliant minds behind the modern day love story stayed consist with their ideas, characterizations and screenplay that “Midnight” felt like the last piece of a elaborately beautiful jigsaw puzzle.
I can’t avoid an legitimately spoiler-less review. Not about this movie, but about the past two films. Now set in Greece, we find the couple rekindling their romance after years of ups and downs. The movie follows the format of the original two films: a beautiful foreign company with truthful conversations about love, life and everything in between by two complex individuals. Hawke and Delpy reprise their now iconic roles and brings about a new childish maturity that keeps the audiences engaged and envious of the love they have for one another.
The only problem I had with “Before Midnight” would probably be is at the thirty to fourty-five minute mark into the film, in which Linklater had Jesse and Celine interacting with other couples. Though the scene (specifically around the dinner table) is well written, I feel like the magic that the “Before” series had always had was not present at all. It felt like a mature romantic comedy, which I don’t support when it came to the story of these two people. The magic of this series really happens between the two main leads. When we here them talk, understand each other, fight, love and look at each other, that is really the true beauty that this trilogy has to offer. The scene wasn’t bad, but it could have been cut and I wouldn’t have cared.
Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine has very consistent characterizations. As the audience watched the couple grow up in front of their eyes (once in 1995 then again in 2004), they never lost a connection from the characters they created. Instead they are able to internalize them and bring them to a certain level that each generation of the previous two films would understand in human beings. Yet again, they engage with the audience. They made us laugh and cry, and they did this by speaking the wonderful words in the screenplay they had written with director Linklater and story contributor Kim Krizan. Their performance seems like an extension from the past two films, which makes them in my eyes nearly flawless. Not to mention the realism and commitment they really put into their roles that you can feel straight from the cinema seats. They are passionate about what they have created and it really shows in this one. Namely Delpy who seems to be really comfortable in her own skin.
Greece, another perfect and romantic location, plays another character in the film. Just like Vienna and France did for the previous two movies. Location is important for the series because it makes it more interesting, pretty to look at and gives us the ideal ambiance and charisma of what Jesse and Celine’s relationship is. Which is: a beautiful, romantic European country.
In the end, I originally thought it fell short. But I completely changed my mind after sleeping on it. I wouldn’t call it a simple ending because it’s very obvious how it’s going to end. But I see why some may feel that it doesn’t really close the chapter in Jesse and Celine’s life. But I realized that I prefer it that way. Jesse and Celine are eternal. Not only as movie characters or by people who love the “Before” movies, but they universally representing all couples of modern society who love and struggle along the way. That’s why it was a perfect ending. It was realistic because we never fully understand the human mind. What more when you’re in love and your judgement is oh so cloudy?
Of course, I don’t think it comes close to measuring to the first two movies, especially “Sunset” (which is one of my faves). But the film is good because “Midnight” tries to stop following what is ideal in romance and starts accepting the real life factors around it. All together, they are a pretty consistent movie series, and I’m glad that I was born in the time to watch and grow with Jesse and Celine’s story. Time to look at myself with disgust, and be depressed that I’m single. Just kidding. But it’s certainly a perfect framework of looking at what love can do for us over time. Time to vie for that instead.