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Before Midnight Movie Review

Before Midnight is the next installment in Richard Linklater’s sweepingly intimate romantic story. I had the pleasure of watching the first two movies, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, just days before seeing Before Midnight. For those unfamiliar, these movies are about the relationship between two characters, Jesse played by Ethan Hawke, and Celine played by Julie Delpy. Jesse (an American) met Celine (a French woman) on a train in Paris 1994. Before Sunrise explores the first time they met, Before Sunset is about them 9 years later, and Before Midnight is 9 years after that. They all actually were released in real time so Before Sunrise was released in 1994, Before Sunset in 2004, and Before Midnight in 2013. Each movie is a walk and talk snapshot story that explores not only their relationship but philosophically rich questions underneath it’s character’s poetic ramblings.

Who said guys don’t like romance movies? Romance is one of my favorite things in movies when done right (Casablanca!) but so often it’s done poorly. Before Midnight and its predecessors are the shining example of romance. I will not be spoiling anything about the story or any of the previous movies because that would be robbing you of an incredible cinematic experience. Few movies are as emotionally riveting and engaging as these and they’re done so effortlessly. Before Midnight takes a very mature approach to its telling of this intimate story between Celine and Jesse. The previous movies while exploring love, were about these characters as younger people and now that 9 years have passed and life has moved on, these characters have matured as well. Jesse has problems from his past that threaten his relationship and life. Celine is now a middle-aged woman wondering if she’s still beautiful and questions her relationship with Jesse as well as her own self-identity. There’s so much more depth to these characters that I don’t want to spoil. All of these problems and emotions are released in a day that bubbles to the surface in startling fashion. The plot revolves around Jesse and Celine in Greece while there relationships and lives are questioned over the course of a day. Essentially Jesse and Celine’s problems become our problems during the course of the movie. Conflict between these two characters pours off the screen and into the viewers heart and mind.

Few movies can pull off 100 minutes of conversation between characters while keeping the audience fully involved. This script feels effortless and rolls out in hyper naturalistic fashion. By that I mean that these characters just seem like they’re having a real conversation and we somehow are peeking behind their curtain.

The momentum never slows in the entire film. The conflict is executed on multiple different levels to become seamless. It’s obvious that everyone was on the same page. Of course you need to have great actors to make this seem so smooth. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy give emotionally intimate performances and most importantly they feel like real characters and real people. You aren’t watching Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, you’re watching Jesse and Celine.

Whether these characters are sitting at a table eating dinner or fighting in a hotel room, as a viewer we are there with them. It’s similar to watching a stage play because the camera will just follow these characters as we listen to them talk about topics such as first love, marriage, work, the idea of one’s self etc. The camera work is absolutely fantastic and invisible in every scene. The angles and movements are mesmerizing and yet so simple. Long beautiful tracking shots put the audience in a trance and we forget we’re watching a movie.

Richard Linklater is a master writer/director and this movie is another classic. Before Midnight is the kind of movie I wish everyone could see and fully appreciate. In a time when the popular romances are Twilight and Nicholas Sparks movies, I think audiences are numbed to what an actual great romance movie is. The Before movies are about a real romance/relationship and portrays it in the most authentic way possible. Real characters that we fall in love with that have real problems are what make me love movies. Before Midnight and its’ predecessors do this as great as any romance movie ever made. This movie is full of riveting scenes that change tones on the flip of a coin. Richard Linklater is the kind of director that makes people realize why they love movies by telling a story that he loves himself. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy give god tier performances. Shower them with awards plzzzz.

Compared to the previous two, this film ramps up the conflict and adds antoerh layer to Jesse and Celine’s lives. Before Midnight is the best movie so far this year and it’s going to be extremely tough for any movie to top it.

What makes these movies so great is that they feel like they are about all of us. They’re so relatable on a personal level and explore relationships, philosophical ideas, marriage etc. Because these movies are just one day out of these characters lives every nine years we are so engaged and invested in these stories. We see ourselves and think about how much we have changed. Before Midnight is an incredibly intelligent look at relationships with rich dialogue, fantastic characters and performances. There’s not a flaw in the entire film. Jesse and Celine are as deep and real as characters can get in the medium. Richard Linklater has cemented himself as an all time great. I consider these movies one of the best trilogies ever made and Before Midnight is maybe the best of the 3 (Definitely the most mature). From the moment the movie started I was in these characters lives. As the screen cut to black I realized that I was in a movie theater. I look forward to nine years from now when hopefully I can see where Jesse and Celine are in their lives, as well as my own.

 

Grade:  A+

 

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