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Sundance '13 Review: BEFORE MIDNIGHT Is a Darker but Wonderful Conclusion to the Trilogy

Before Midnight

Director: Richard Linklater

Writers: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Official Synopsis: We meet Celine and Jesse nine years after their last rendezvous. Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early forties in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.

SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

Performances

If you're reading this, you already know about the first two movies in this series and you know how the second film's cliffhanger is one of the best endings of the past ten years. You also know that these films succeed because of the phenomenal performances of their leads, and for this third entry, Hawke and Delpy slip back into character with no problem. Jesse and Celine are nine years older, have two kids, and live in Paris (so that's what happened at the end of Sunset!), but are visiting Greece for a summer and staying with a writer friend of Jesse's. Long fluid conversations between the couple and their friends continue to serve as the currency of this series, and here the characters discuss the topics of life in the modern world, technology's effect on love and romance, our place in the universe, the differences between men and women, societal expectations for men versus women, the validity of marriage, and much more.

Story and Direction

Linklater continues to capture incredibly intimate moments between his actors (including some frankly sexual ones here, too), and while it's been a few years since I've seen the first two movies, Before Midnight goes to much darker places with the material and isn't afraid to get into the dirty truths of a long relationship. Again he uses multiple long takes to capture the naturalism of the couple's conversations, and with nothing but dialogue to latch on to, he and the actors lure us deeper into the lives of Jesse and Celine.

But here's the thing: their lives aren't that extraordinary, and every conversation they have in this movie feels totally real and relatable in a way that the dialogue from the first two films couldn't quite accomplish. The movie balances humor with utterly devastating emotional sequences; while the first movie was about exploring first love and the second dealt with the difficulty of life as a thirtysomething, this one gets into some harsh and personal territory between the two as a kink in the armor reveals some deeper issues bubbling beneath the surface for both of them. Before Midnight is a progression of ups and downs, alternating between being soul-crushing and inspiring, and is a terrific conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. Unless, of course, they decide to make another movie nine years from now.

Similar To

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, obviously. There really isn't another franchise like this one.

Chances You'll See It In Theaters

If I were a betting man, I'd say this will stay in limited release. As passionate as the fanbase for this film is, probably 30% of them are here and will see it at Sundance, and I don't imagine studios will think that the other 70% will be a big enough audience to justify a wide release. 

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