Before Midnight (2013)
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Plot: We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.
Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Adapted Screenplay.
Rating: M18 for sexual content/nudity and language.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Still there. Still there. Still there. Gone.”
There is a bittersweet moment in Before Midnight when an old woman talks about how she could still vividly remember her late husband's face, texture of his skin, his teeth... but that the memory is starting to fade away. Memory of the past is so precious, yet it is what we do in the present that creates memories for the future.
"Like sunrise, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, yet we are just... passing... through", the old woman contemplates. Such perceptive interchange of dialogue and a realness to the portrayal of romantic relationships have been long-standing hallmarks of Richard Linklater's breathtaking 'Before' trilogy, one of the great achievements in American independent filmmaking.
Before Midnight, the third (and hopefully not the final) entry, will emerge as a strong contender for one of the top ten films of the year. It is an artistic and creative triumph, a far cry from what moviegoers associate romance movies with – celebrity culture, low budget-high returns model, and for most parts, a sappy, sentimental and cheesy approach to storytelling and character development.
Before Midnight, Before Sunset (2004) and Before Sunrise (1995), each made nine years apart, follow the lives of two of the most likable characters to ever fall in love with each other on the big screen. Their names are Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). And this time they are in Greece.
The sights of Greece are less inspiring and less prominently featured here than that of Vienna and Paris in previous films, with Linklater focusing more on the delightful but rocky relationship between Jesse and Celine. The chemistry between Hawke and Delpy are still in abundance, with the latter giving her best performance of the three films.
The narrative, built upon a non-structure of spontaneity and challenging long takes, continues to engage tremendously by virtue of its outstanding characterizations and dialogue. It is a fictional drama, yet it transcends itself into what could be a romance documentary that is mostly shot in real-time. Taken collectively, the ‘Before’ trilogy is a masterful exploration of what it means to love someone.
The joys and despairs of romance continue to work its magic and poison on all of us. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have brilliantly captured the nuances of them all. The characters (and actors) may have aged, and the 1990s and 2000s were a different time then, yet with Before Midnight they show that they still remain relevant today. Jesse and Celine are the mirrors of our lives – no pretentiousness, no acting… just hard-hitting truths.
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