"Before Midnight" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
After meeting each other one fateful day and falling in love, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) thought they had found their soulmate, promising to return to one another in six months in the same exact spot. However, when that plan falls through, they both think their relationship with one another is over for good, with both of them moving on with their lives. Yet, they meet unexpectedly nine years later, both of them hitting it off once again and deciding they don't want to be with anyone else but each other. Now, we find our characters together nine years after the second film in this conclusion to Richard Linklater's beloved trilogy, which beautifully explores the hardships they go through as a couple.
Our two characters are not married, but have committed their lives to one another. They share two beautiful twins, and are seemingly living this perfect life together as a couple. Yet, when they take a family vacation to Greece for the summer, it shows how things are far from perfect, and the two lovebirds have been fighting a lot over everything. Now tasked with trying to get their relationship back on track, the couple must figure out what their lives could have been if they had never met, and if they want that change or not.
After spending eighteen years and two movies exploring these two characters and the relationship that they could have, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy finally show the couple together and middle-aged, revealing what it would be like if the couple did stay together for good and had a life together. However, instead of showing their bliss and happiness in the relationship like many movies do, they go down the path of showing a real and raw relationship, filled with love, sex, fights, heartbreak, and everything else you would find in a long-term relationship like theirs. No relationship is perfect, even ones that seem like the most romantic and perfect, and that is what the filmmakers are trying to show. Even though all of the horrible times they have been through together and the countless fights, it shows that these two people love each other and are committed to only each other.
The performances by Hawke and Delpy are spectacular once again, and I think this could be the best film performance-wise. They are able to have that charm and love show in one another, but they are also tasked with showing the nasty and hard side of the relationship, like mentioned above. Consider the hotel scene towards the end of the move. The two characters get in a huge, explosive fight and it is extremely hard to watch, to be completely honest. It seems like you are actually watching a real-life couple arguing with one another, and it sucks as this is a couple the viewer has been following over a series of movies, and for some people, over 18 years. The fight seems very real, and it plays out how a real fight between couples would. In many movies, couples fight at least once or twice, but they're never as powerful or as real as the fight Céline and Jesse get into.
What I thought was really interesting is how it seems like the couple lost the magic throughout their relationship. In the first two movies, they talk to each other about anything, and are able to bond over their shared discussions. But now, it seems like they would do anything to talk to other people about their passions and interests. It seems like they have grown weary of talking to each other, and want to share their lives with other people. This isn't bad at all, as everyone should have friends to talk to and interact with, but it shows in a way how staying together everyday has sort of cheapened and tarnished the relationship had in the first couple of movies. It shows how they loved having the time away and being able to come together, and by staying together over all these years, it really showed their true colors, through and through.
I really adore the use of the backdrop of Greece in this movie. The first two films used Paris, but this one settles on Greece, which can be seen as an older and more quiet setting. It doesn't seem as romantic, and allows people to reflect on themselves when in this setting, which is the case for the story in this movie. Linklater also focuses on a conversation about going to see the Ruins for the twins, which is a hint at what is to come for our characters. Is their relationship ruined beyond repair, or are our characters going to be able to figure out their problems and come together stronger than ever?
The movie does end on a bittersweet note, and would leave the viewer feeling satisfied as the credits roll. In my opinion, I think this is a perfect conclusion of the trilogy, and I can't imagine the trilogy ending in any other way. Linklater and the two actors were able to show the progression of a loving relationship across almost two decades, and how it has changed and evolved during that time. It is a very beautiful and haunting image of how a relationship can turn, but it shows the harsh reality of life and everything it brings. While we can celebrate the relationship in the film and hold it in high regard, we also must realize that nothing is perfect or will last forever, which I think this entire film trilogy perfectly shows.