Film Review: Before Midnight

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Nine years after Celine (Julie Delpy) tracked Jesse (Ethan Hawke) down in Paris during his book tour, the couple are still together and are holidaying in Greece with their two children. However, the course of true love never did run smooth, and with Jesse being unhappy at being apart from his son and Celine debating whether to take a new job, some harsh truths come to bear.

When we left Jesse and Celine in Paris nine years ago, they were about to embark on a romantic and happy life together, or at least that’s what we were allowed to imagine. Before Sunset left us the ability to add our own happy ending, but with Before Midnight, we’re back to see exactly how their relationship is panning out. This means that a lot of pressure is heaped upon the shoulders of Before Midnight; it could ruin the whole saga for people or it could elevate it to a new level. For me, I’m glad to say it was the latter.

One of Before Midnight‘s biggest achievements is bringing Jesse and Celine into the real world. In Before Sunrise & Before Sunset, they seemed to exist only in their own little fantasy world, one where their whirlwind romance blocked out the outside world almost entirely. Now, despite being in a picturesque Greek village that easily rivals Paris or Vienna as a setting, the two of them are now very much experiencing the real world and all the problems and responsibilities that come with it. We also actually have some other characters this time around, which although plays with the regular ‘Before’ format a little, also helps to make Jesse and Celine that little bit more real as we see them engaging with other people besides each other.

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Whilst there is some change in format over the previous two films, everything that makes them special is still present. We still have the in-depth, deep and meaningful conversations perfectly delivered by Delpy and Hawke, the script as tight as ever, with wonderful long takes as the characters bounce back and forth off one another. There is still a slight pretentiousness that envelopes the entire piece, but as one of the couple’s friends actually calls Jesse out on his own pretentious attitude, the film almost feels a little self-knowing in this respect, and therefore it becomes less of an issue.

However, it’s in its final act that Before Midnight really shows what’s up its sleeve. As Jesse and Celine prepare for a rare evening alone without the kids, we see their souls laid bare. We see these characters for what they really are: real people with real conflicts. Up to this point in the saga, we’ve been led to believe that these two are the perfect couple, destined to spend a blissful life together. Here we see a whole other side to Jesse and Celine; a side that highlights their personal strengths but also, and more interestingly, their weaknesses. The whole scene is set in a rather bland hotel room; there’s nothing here but the two of them and an outpouring of repressed feelings. It’s so simple but is as intense as anything else you’ll watch this year.

This brings us to the film’s ending, which is sure to be a bone of contention for some, whilst being the perfect denouement for others. Like both Sunrise and Sunset before it, Before Midnight leaves us in slightly ambiguous fashion, unsure of exactly how Jesse and Celine’s life will pan out. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we’re supposed to be left with a feeling of no matter what happens, no matter who we meet or fall in love with, you never really know what the future holds. All we can be sure of is that Jesse and Celine’s journey thus far has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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34 thoughts on “Film Review: Before Midnight

  1. Cracking work as always buddy. Really looking forward to seeing this.

  2. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I’m really excited to see this film.

  3. I haven’t seen any of these films yet. I have one coming up in the Readers Recommendation series, though, so I will before long! Glad to see you grade it out so highly…

  4. CMrok93 says:

    Best of the year so far, and by the way 2013 been shaping out to be: probably for the rest as well. Nice review.

  5. Nick Powell says:

    i wanted to stop by and give some love, but i didn’t read it yet because i want to put it off until i see it myself. cannot wait. glad to see that score!

  6. Tyson Carter says:

    Is the ending contentious because someone gets skinned alive?? If not I’m not watching it, and Ill go watch the film where that does happen. 😉

  7. Would you suggest that I watch the first two films before checking this one out?

  8. sati says:

    I’m definitely going to see this one but I’m a little worried, the ending to Before Sunset is one of my all time favorites and I kinda wish the story would end right there.

    • I think a lot of people feel that way to be honest and Midnight is definitely not the perfect fairytale the others were, it shows the characters’ faults and their struggles. It felt like the perfect evolution of the characters for me though.

  9. table9mutant says:

    I’ve not read this – will have to come back & read it IF I manage to see this in the next few days. :-/ Hope so! I’m a big fan of the other two films. Your rating for this is promising. 🙂

  10. Great review, man! Completely agree with your take, and I loved the ambiguous ending. Felt perfectly in line with the end of the first two films. Here’s hoping we see them again in nine years!

    • Thanks Eric! I wasn’t sure about the ending when I first saw it but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I was wondering if we’ll see them again, I really wouldn’t be surprised if we did. I hope we do!

  11. Mike says:

    Great review. After the first 2 I was really looking forward to this, and even though I still really enjoyed it that final section just threw me a little. And then the ending, maybe I was hoping that it wouldn’t have ended on such a knife point and I could have walked out of the cinema not feeling so down!

    Maybe it will grow on me next time I watch it!

    Overall this trilogy is a terrific achievement!

    • Thanks Mike. The ending is definitely a contentious one. I really wasn’t sure about it as I left the cinema but it has grown on me since then. I don’t know whether they’ve purposely left it open ended so they can make another or if it was just to stay in line with the ambiguous endings of the other two. It definitely wasn’t as strong an ending as the previous two films. For me, though, it was a better overall film and the argument in the hotel room was unbelievable, so intense!

  12. I watched Before Sunrise today, it was lovely! I’m planning to watch Before Sunset soon 🙂
    Obviously I’ll watch Before Midnight after haha.

  13. Good review. I think its one of the best films of the year so far!

  14. Dan Heaton says:

    Nice piece. I like how they give hints at the resentment boiling underneath the surface throughout the movie. Both are trying to push it aside and enjoy the locale, but it’s there right from the start. The ending worked for me, but I can see where some might think it’s a cop-out. I like the idea that they’re still working out the issues and aren’t giving up, even if it isn’t a fairy-tale scenario.

    • Thanks Dan. It really does bubble under right from the start, from when they’re in the car on the way back from the airport. The ending worked for me too eventually. To start with I thought it was a cop out but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I think it could have been done slightly better, maybe not have Celine’s attitude change quite so quickly, but it definitely fitted with the ambiguity of the previous two films.

  15. Nostra says:

    One of my favorites this year. Stunning performances again making the Midnight trilogy my favorite one (have given each movie a 10/10)

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