I’m not sure this is the end of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy. It’s perfection just as it is, but then again, Linklater has nine more years to work on the sequel.
The director’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset, which were released in 1995 and 2004 respectively, were incredibly moving, realistic depictions of two very different people who meet casually, then realize that they have found an everlasting love after being apart for many years.
Or so it seemed. Now comes “Before Midnight,” with the lovers together after several years, facing all the aggravations of the tedium and challenges of all longtime partners.
First, if you haven’t seen the first two movies, I don’t recommend seeing this one until you’ve gotten to know the main characters of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke, playing an entirely different character next door in “The Purge”). Each movie is intimate, and each is dialogue-driven.
The original is a romance about love at first sight, with two young people spending several hours together and thus changing the rest of their lives. Nine years later, the two reunited in a film that has a somewhat ambiguous finale.
Now, we see the couple again, this time with Jesse saying goodbye to his son, who is heading back to the United States, where the boy lives with his mother. The camera then focuses on Jesse and Celine, with their twin daughters sleeping in the back seat, as they make their way to the home of a friend in Greece and attend a dinner party there.
The honeymoon, if one could call it that, is over. Now the two are facing the onerous dilemma of career choices, determining how to be good parents, and the most crucial choice of all: Do they still love each other?
How well Delpy and Hawke know these characters is reflected in the dialogue that they wrote along with the director. The barbs and the teasing remarks have an edge this time around, until what doesn’t come to a head in front of their friends and children becomes a full-blown fight once the couple is alone. The buildup of the argument and its compelling crescendo is so authentic it’s almost uncomfortable for the viewer — I almost felt as though I were watching a real-life altercation unfold.
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This is an profound film about the transitions of love. I hope that we can see Jesse and Celine at least one more time before Linklater has the curtain fall on their story.