Before Midnight, 2013, USA
I’m a big fan of the predecessors of Before Midnight – Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. They are such beautiful, intimate and honest films, and I feel a connection to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). I was eagerly anticipating Before Midnight, and, while I loved it, it left me with a sense of melancholy.
Jesse and Celine have young twin daughters, and are vacationing in Greece. Jesse has just dropped his son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) off at the airport to return home to his mother, and feels like he needs to be geographically closer to his son. When Jesse and Celine’s friends buy them a night in a Greek hotel, they walk to the hotel and muse about their relationship, and the future.
The film feels very natural and it’s a brutally honest portrayal of family and the nature of love. In this realness lies the sense of melancholy. While I appreciated the honesty, and Richard Linklater, Hawke and Delpy’s refusal to sugarcoat the relationship, I did feel sad towards the end of the film. But I also felt appreciative. Too many endings are wrapped up unnaturally so the audience is left satisfied and happy. But that’s not real life. Real life is messy, and real life can be painful. Before Midnight refuses to shy away from the messy.
Before Midnight contains many of the deep and meaningful conversations as its predecessor, while also stating that such conversations had become a rarity due to the birth of their children. The conversation flows beautifully and naturally, and Linklater, Hawke and Delpy prove once again how adept they are at screenwriting. They truly know and love these characters, and the writing is beautiful. This film features them interacting more with other people, which is something I appreciated as it gave us a sense of how they interact when they’re around other people. We see Jesse’s endearing goofiness, and the bitterness and guilt Celine seems to struggle to keep below the surface.
The cinematography of the film is gorgeous. I loved how Greece was put on display for much of the film. It was beautiful and romantic – particularly the scenes at the house while they’re eating outdoors. The camera remains focused on Celine and Jesse most of the time. Some of the shots are very long and focused, adding to the intimacy of the film. Later on, these focused shots can feel static and painful, but that was the purpose of them.
I can’t help but wonder if we’ll get another sequel a decade from now. As much as I love these two characters and their relationship, I feel like another film is unnecessary. Of course, I felt like this after Before Sunset, and we got another fantastic film!