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Before Midnight - Review

Before Midnight

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

IF Before Sunrise and Before Sunset represented cinema at its most realistically romantic, then Before Midnight maintains that emotional authenticity in exemplary fashion. But it may also be the least satisfying of the three film’s so far.

Picking up nine years after Jesse and Celeste’s last chance encounter, the film now finds them living together with two kids of their own and seemingly happy. They’re also on holiday in Greece.

Opening at an airport as Jesse waves his son off to a bitter ex-wife in Chicago, the ensuing 24 hours proceeds to lift the lid on the trials and tribulations now facing this endearing couple.

For man-child Jesse, in particular, the distance between him and his son is beginning to show the strain and a suggestion that he and Celeste move to Chicago to be closer to him is quickly greeted with pessimism and outrage.

Celeste, meanwhile, is mulling over career opportunities but knows the spectre of Chicago could place her own ambitions on hold.

Once more directed and co-written by Richard Linklater, Before Midnight is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at relationships once the early spark has faded and life has got in the way. It’s not without humour and romance but the optimism of the first two films in the series is missing. Early on, so too is the intimacy.

Linklater’s decision to bring in other characters is one of a couple of mis-steps this movie makes. A dinner party sequence in which the new characters get to debate broader themes feels slightly self-referential and smug, especially in the way it provides the filmmaker rather than the characters the chance to comment on modern movie trends and thematic complexity.

It’s here that Before Midnight feels like a movie rather than a snatched day in two people’s lives.

Of lesser disappointment (but disappointment nonetheless) is the decision to take the relationship into darker territory. For while admirably brave in chronicling the natural progression of any partnership, it was perhaps an unnecessary step that replaces the fairytale element of it’s predecessors. Sometimes, you just need that fairytale to remain intact.

As ever, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy excel in their respective roles (and it’s a pleasure to be in their company) but there are problems here too. The script sometimes feels less balanced with Celeste’s neurotic tendencies making her the less sympathetic of the two, especially when demeaning herself with poor taste rape ‘jokes’. It’s an irony, too, that the film falls into the same trap of a lot of genre films in revealing more female nudity than male.

That said, Hawke and Delpy deserve continued praise for allowing their popular characters to display so many flaws, while there’s a rawness to their performances that makes both appear ‘naked’ [emotionally] a lot of the time.

And as previously stated there is much to be enjoyed by spending more time in their company, with several of their conversations either amusing or resonating by virtue of their honesty.

Hence, for all its problems, Before Midnight remains worth seeing, offering plenty to enjoy and mull over afterwards.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 109mins
UK Release Date: June 21, 2013