As someone who only just began watching the Before…Trilogy this year, I was quite surprised by how much it took a hold of me. Before Sunrise was a fascinating exploration of love and its role in the world today. Before Sunset was a strong continuation of not only those themes but of the journey of Jesse and Celine. This year saw the release of the film that officially made this series of films a trilogy: Before Midnight. Before Midnight is easily the most risk-taking of the three films, and this easily could have ended badly. However, thanks to sturdy direction and a strong cast, Before Midnight not only ends up becoming one of the best films of the year, but also a film that can be argued as the best of an already great trilogy.
Before Midnight picks up nine years after the conclusion of Before Sunsetwhere it was left ambiguous as to whether Jesse (Ethan Hawke) was going to miss his flight back home and stay with Celine (Julie Delpy). The film begins with Jesse dropping his son (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) at the airport to go back home to America after a summer spent together (anymore explanation of the plot could be considered a spoiler). The film is directed by Richard Linklater and is written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy.
For almost all of this trilogy, Richard Linklater has relied on a simple formula: have two characters talk to each other about life and love through tracking shots in gorgeous foreign landscapes. Yet a lot of credit has to be given to Linklater for sticking to that formula. It’s an extremely effective formula, and while it’s simple and laidback in appearance, it takes a lot of effort from Linklater and company to get it to work as well as it does. That being said it was also interesting to see Linklater stray from the formula in the darker moments that occurred in the first and last acts of this film. Linklater still found a way to make the trademark themes of this film series work even in those scenes.
Jesse and Celine are easily Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s signature roles. With every film they seem to find new ways to make their characters even more interesting and complex. That is especially the case with this film. Ethan Hawke delivers his best performance in the series yet as he makes Jesse so sympathetic despite taking some of his much damaging actions yet. Meanwhile, Julie Delpy (through both her acting and screenwriting) succeeds in the truly difficult task of creating a feminist character onscreen. In the first two films of the series, there was no room at all for a supporting cast so it was an odd sight to see some supporting characters get some screen time in this one. While none of the supporting actors give performances of particular note, Walter Lassally gets a nice scene as the owner of a Greek retreat for writers.
Before Midnight is a stunning exploration of fading love.