Before Midnight (2013) ***1/2


There are not enough love stories in the world. There are more than enough romances but when it comes to love, believe it or not audience tends to prefer unrequited love and somehow now the words ‘happily ever after’ are also uttered with bitter cynicism. People say that straight forward love stories don’t have a place in cinema now because there is no one who believes in that kind of love anymore. Nonetheless I am happy that in this bitter cynical world, I can always turn to Jesse and Celine to provide some much needed comfort.

It has been 18 years since Jesse Wallace (Ethan Hawke) met Céline (Julie Delpy) on the train from Budapest. They met again 9 years earlier, with him married and with a child and her still living in France. In the third installment of the series we finally get the closure to the question – did they or did they not get together? which was left half answered at the end of ‘Before Sunset’.

Richard Linklater’s complete series is an ode to a connection shared by two people that is effortless and beautiful. You see Jesse and Celine sit and watch the sunset in silence and realize that their love story is exceptional because not just of that one beautiful day they shared together but also because they had the courage to accept their feelings 9 years hence, however pathetic or desperate they may come across to the other. With ‘Before Midnight’ Linklater, Hawke and Delpy, all of whom share the screenplay credit for the film, let the audience into the lives of a married couple with the kind of intensity that is both shocking and calming. Hawke and Delpy are essentially the same characters who have just grown and adapted with the circumstances around them. They talk, they argue, they fight and they make up, with this intense familiarity that is not often seen on screen.

It would have been alright for the film to be just about average because sequels, especially third installments are never expected to reach the highs of that first exceptional film. But Linklater knows these characters too well to present them in an average film. One of the great things about this series is that the characters and the actors who change naturally on screen, not just physically but also in terms of their priorities. And despite the changes, they essentially remain the same people with the same spark that you saw when they first met. One of the best scene of the film is the one where the two fight and Celine shows off her passive aggressive self, however unattractive it may be, while Jesse listens on with the patience and commitment of a man who knows just what he is dealing with.  

‘Before Midnight’ can be summed up in one dialogue of the film – “I guess when you are young you think that you will meet a lot of people that you would connect with. As you grow older you realize that these connections are rare.”

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