By: Gabrielle Bondi
Note: This review has a few “spoilers,” but it doesn’t spoil anything more than what the trailer does.
I saw Before Midnight, the third movie following Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine, over a month ago, and frankly I’ve been putting this review off. I know it doesn’t make sense. How can I not review a movie I love so much? How come a rush of words can’t come to mind when writing about a movie that is the best one I’ve seen all year? It’s hard to write a review—or anything—that can do this movie justice. But since I’m here, I’ll try my best to convey all my feelings to tell you that director/writer Richard Linklater gives us the best film of his Before Sunrise series yet.
We first fell in love with Jesse and Celine 18 years ago as they explored Vienna, and then again—and maybe even more so—nine years later, when they reunited in Paris. Now, we see Jesse and Celine together in Greece with their young twin daughters. Jesse just sent his son (from a previous marriage) off home to America after spending the summer together. He can’t help but feel guilty about living so far from his son and only seeing him for short amounts of time. But he has a life in Europe with Celine and their daughters, a life that Celine feels very happy and comfortable with. We spend another day with Jesse and Celine, seeing how they evolved and matured into a couple and whether true love and soul mates are notions that are unbreakable and lasting.
Before Midnight gives us an honest look at a couple in their 40s. At the end of Before Sunset, we all wondered how Jesse and Celine would fare in a long term relationship. It was kind of the true test of whether I was a romantic or cynic. The romantic side of me was all “They’ll live happily ever after,” and the cynic was like “It’s not going to last.” (I really hate the cynical side of me.) Now we have the answer to that question… sort of. That’s what makes this movie so good, because life or moments in time don’t hold a definitive answer. Time changes us, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, in turn changing the answers to the same questions.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are at their best in this film. I wouldn’t be surprised if they received recognition for their performances later this year during awards season. The chemistry has always been there, but I think it’s amplified, which is appropriate since Jesse and Celine have been together for nine years now. They’re much more familiar with each other. Hawke gives a subtle yet genuinely heartfelt performance, while Delpy’s is emotionally charged and vibrant.
Richard Linklater once again directs and like the previous films brings out the beauty of Jesse and Celine’s surroundings, without ever letting it overwhelm the couple. In fact, with a script has exquisite as this one, it’s practically impossible for anything outshine these two.
Everything about Before Midnight rings wonderfully and achingly true. I may not be in my 40s—or even close to it—but I know from observing older couples, in particular my parents, that Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke have given us something that’s real, that’s true. They did it in 1995 with Before Sunrise, in 2004 with Before Sunset, and they’ve done it again with Before Midnight today. This trilogy is one of the most romantic stories that have ever graced the screen and a true wonder of cinema to behold. If we’re lucky, we’ll have something to look forward to in 2022.
Before Midnight is now playing in select theaters. Click here to see where and when its playing near you.