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Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met in their twenties in Before Sunrise; reunited in their thirties in Before Sunset; and, now, in director Richard Linklater's amazing Before Midnight, they face the past, present and future; family, romance, and love. Now married and in Greece, the couple looks for a night of passion, but instead their idyllic night turns into a test of their relationship, and a discussion of what their future holds for them.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 180
- Fresh: 177
- Rotten: 3
- Average Rating: 8.7/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: Love is messy here, life cannot be controlled, satisfaction is far from guaranteed. Romance is rocky at best. But romance still is.
Fresh: How (Jesse and Celine) try to rekindle that flame is what drives Midnight, a film that feels so authentic it's like overhearing a conversation you're not sure you should be hearing.
Fresh: Hawke and Delpy, who co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater, make this oscillation between badinage and feistiness, cosiness and irritability, look effortless.
Fresh: This is a universal X-ray of bourgeois love, one that in a few decades will get around to something like Amour.
ROMANCE MEETS REALITY IN THIS RICHLY AUTHENTIC DRAMA
We were first introduced to the characters of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) when they were strangers in their twenties meeting one another by chance on a train to Vienna in 1995's "Before Sunset." Then, in 2004's "Before Sunrise," we caught up with the two lovers once again as they reconnected in Paris. Now, nine more long years later, we finally catch up with the American-French couple, who've settled down together and have started a small family. And just like in the first two films, this movie takes place throughout the course of one entire day, as we follow them on a beautifully scenic Greek island listening to the many conversations between them and others that are occasionally amusing, deeply emotional, and powerfully resonant. What initially starts out as an idyllic day of pleasure soon turns into a heated test of their relationship, and a giant discussion of what their future holds for them. And just as the hidden cracks in their love life uneasily begin to reveal themselves, so do the best, genuine aspects of this beautifully filmed, intricately structured, exceptionally written sequel.
Jesse and Celine are at the end of a six-week holiday in Greece. Jesse's 13-year-old son Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is returning to his bitter mother in Chicago, while they prepare to go home to Paris with their 7-year-old twins (Jennifer and Charlotte Prior). Celine is getting ready for a big new job, but Jesse is wondering whether they should think about moving to America to be closer to Hank. And it's this disparity that sparks a strong, extended conversation about the fragility of their future together.
If "Sunrise" touched on the euphoria of instant attraction, and "Sunset" explored the bittersweet allure of reigniting the flame, then "Before Midnight," in its own quiet, understated way, is about the tough, exasperating business of keeping a relationship alive. As these 41-year-olds are approaching middle age and wondering about the life-altering choices they've made, they still have a passion for each other and their children, but is that simply enough to sustain their close bond over the coming decades? That's what director Richard Linklater deftly explores as we follow our two characters simply chatting together in a marathon-length master shot captured entirely in the front seat of a car, interacting with a small group of young and old friends in a grand wine-and-dine sequence that feels fluent and organic, strolling along through the gorgeous Greek countryside, and finally, facing each other in a hotel room for a surprisingly tense battle of words. Each slow-moving scene here greatly transitions to the next with such charm and simplistic elegance that it almost comes as a shock when the film finally builds up to its emotionally heated climax. Both their easy banter and bitter, resentful recriminations are so truthful that it's sometimes hard to watch, and yet, their personal issues only manage to resonate more with us as the movie progresses. Hawke has greatly settled into Jesse's skin as a writer who thinks deeply and works out his feelings through his art, while Celine is basically the same character Delpy usually plays: an emotionally driven woman who always feels preoccupied with the demands of life and uses her sharp wit to fiercely express herself. Their powerful chemistry together is raw and unbelievably real, both in the story's gently romantic moments and the darkly painful confrontations. It's a true testament to Linklater's authentic execution and the lead actors' masterful performances, as all three have taken what began as a hopeful love story nearly two decades ago into a painfully genuine relationship that's as messy as it is unpredictable.
At the end of the day, "Before Midnight" is much more than a well-acted romantic drama, not to mention the best chapter in an exceptionally unique, utterly fascinating film series. It's ultimately a rich, endearing, and beautifully complex slice of life that offers intelligent and powerful perspectives on love, marriage, and long-term commitment. And just as this latest entry draws most of its power from its relationship to "Sunrise" and "Sunset," those previous films gain a brand new poignancy in retrospective. Their resurfaced memories of better times fuel the energy that makes this movie such a success, and it simply leaves us wondering where Jesse and Celine will possibly be another nine years from now. With its incredible performances that linger long after the credits, "Midnight" is one of the best movies of 2013 and a true must-see. Honestly, 2022 can't come soon enough.
As a marriage and family therapist, perhaps I'm just tired of watching people have endless, fruitless conversations that perpetuate their misery and keep them estranged, but I found nothing uplifting or illuminating in this film, and the problems are so heavily weighted toward Celine, who clearly has issues with depression, that it almost seems misogynistic. Her perpetual catastrophizing and inability to enjoy the moment in front of her make their relationship painful to watch. And the ending offers just a temporary, and largely unconvincing bandaid over a gaping wound.
Such a letdown from the first two.
"Before Sunset," and "Before Sunrise," are two of my favorite films, for many reasons. "Before Midnight," is an annoying, indulgent, meander. Scenery this beautiful and I still couldn't wait for it to end. I really wanted to love this this film--I paid retail to see it. If I wanted to be pulled through unresolved negativism and continuous dissent, I'd relive my second marriage. It may be "real", but so is a migrane.