I can only write a review for Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight with a biased opinion. Not only am I a fan of Linklater’s two previous acquaintances with romantics Jesse and Céline (both played wonderfully by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), but I’m also someone who fell head over heels for someone lovely who soon became my wife, and we proceed to take long walks and ramble until we forget where we were walking to.
There were poignantly prominent moments in Before Midnight where I felt like crying – and not in a sad way. It wasn’t because I shockingly realized my relationship with my wife has become what Jesse and Céline’s is (sans children and certain arguments), but because director/co-writer Linklater – along with Hawke and Delpy who also co-wrote the observant screenplay – have perfectly captured relationship follies and the purity of being in love without hammering its Greek backdrop into the ground and steering clear of soppiness. It’s an absolutely flawless representation of two people who love each other while occasionally driving eachother cuckoo-bananas.
It’s a film, like Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, that takes place during an allotted period of time within a day, comfortably floats along and isn’t too afraid of staying put for a long time.
Many of the scenes between Jesse and Céline are done in one-shot takes or intercut with passing scenery. I scolded indie darling Thursday Till Sunday for doing this same thing, but Linklater and his skilled actors know how to hold our interest. Their conversations are always flowing with opinions that make us laugh or entertain us. There will even be moments where you’ll forget you’re watching an uninterrupted take because of how attentive you are to the talks.
This is the first of these films that feature solidified supporting characters, where before a nearby waiter was the closest person to a co-star. Another enlightening scene is during a dinner with new friends. None of the discussions about men vs. women and relationship pet peeves feel contrived or familiar territory. Linklater directs the scene with utter authenticity, trust towards his actors and a with freehand – as he’s shown in more of his passion projects like Dazed and Confused.
A lot of the heavy lifting is on Hawke and Delpy to carry their intimate chit-chats and their fuelled arguments – the two do a tremendous job. It gets dicey when dealing with unseen arguments like these because movie goers shouldn’t feel so uncomfortable that they need to leave the room (see: This Is 40). Before Midnight dodges these vibes and instead gives reasons for the viewer to stay tuned in. Just when you think the vocal fisticuffs are being lowered, the level spikes up.
But, what Before Midnight also does so incredibly well is perfectly establishing the thought of knowing that everything is going to be ok. It doesn’t make the film predictable and there are definitely moments where the audience think these two veteran star-crossed lovers are reaching a pivotal “take it or leave it” fork in the road, but that sense of fighting for what you love and never giving up on what you cherish still lingers. No matter if these two part ways or shake hands, when midnight strikes, they both respect each other and they’ll always love each other.
If you are not in a relationship or have never seen the previous two films, this one is still for you. You can still drink in one of the best screenplays 2013 has to offer performed by two gifted actors, and still relate.