Before Midnight

Before Midnight


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

I freely admit avoiding Before Midnight at Sundance this year. While seemingly everyone else was doing everything short of killing for a ticket, I viewed Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke's film rather as you would the incredibly popular kid in a new school you start going to - so loved for years by your peers that you're sure they will think you're to blame if you fail to join the adoration. More succinctly, would seeing Before Midnight before Before Sunset and Before Sunrise mean arriving after the event?

Happily, I can tell the other two or three people in the known universe who have also somehow missed the previous instalments - don't be put off. The trio's study of the passions - both positive and negative - that come with a long-term relationship stands up well as a single slice of life, although I suspect that the longer you have 'known' Hawke and Delpy's Jesse and Celine, the more you will get out of it.

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We catch up with them almost a decade after Sunset, when they are married in all but name and on holiday from their Parisian home in Greece with young twin daughters. Jesse has just been through the difficult business of sending his son Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, doing a lot with a small role) back to his ex-wife in Chicago. Their banter at the airport, inconsequential on the surface but carrying the weight of a summer of fun spent together about to give way to an autumn apart, is the perfect prologue to the conversations to follow between Jesse and Celine. Speaking about school sports, Hank says, "I'm not really serious, dad. I don't care that much." In that realm, perhaps not, but a running theme of Midnight is that while most of the time no one appears to be being particularly serious, they most certainly do care about what is being said.

Linklater, Delpy and Hawke prove to be masters of the long, single take, whether its a scene in a car, which sees them discuss their successes and failures as parents, or a particularly impressive evening saunter, that lets the conversation meander as they do towards a hotel, where friends have attempted to manufacture a night of romance for them.

The chemistry is so good it is pratically tactile and their conversations, in the natural way of long-term couples, are free-ranging and show how at times of high emotion, arguments and resentment can resurface suddenly to powerful effect - "You're sad, so you start a fight," says one of them, starting a fight.

Early, more philosophical discussions about long-term love with their friends at a Greek villa, though beautifully acted, are not as successful, less naturalistic and redolent of the worst excesses of Julie Delpy's 2011 ensemble film Le Skylab. When Celine and Jesse are alone, however, our bond with them is strong. After all, this is in many ways a fairy tale for old romantics everywhere, who believe that the weapons of friendship and commitment are as vital in the fight for a relationship, as love.

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2013
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Before Midnight packshot
Jesse and Celine consider their lives together after nine years of living together.
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Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Ariane Labed, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick

Year: 2013

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Before Sunset