In Before Sunrise (1995) Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) fell in love during a brief, romantic encounter while wandering the beautiful city of Vienna. In Before Sunset (2004) Paris was the city of their rekindled romance, a flight was missed, and an unspoken promise was made.
Now, in Before Midnight, Jesse and Celine are living with the consequences this promises left them with, the good and the bad. They have settled down as an unmarried couple in Paris, their two blond, curly haired twins keeping them busy. On a family trip to the Peloponnese in southern Greece Jesse, now an established novelist, pitches ideas to his friends while environmental activist Celine contemplates a career change.
After dropping his son Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) off at the airport Jesse and Celine spend a rare moment alone as the twins sleep in the backseat. In a brilliantly witty dialogue they debate the past the present and the future, Celine’s mood shifting as quickly as always and Jesse at his usual laid-back, horny self.
Unlike in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset the first half of Before Midnight introduces more characters, that may only play minor roles but that are integral to the plot. However director /writer Richard Linklater never loses sight of the unique chemistry between Celine and Jesse.
Jesse struggles with the guilt of leaving his, now teenage, son behind when he chose Celine over his ex-wife. He yearns to spend more time with his son and short-tempered Celine sees this a threat to the life they have build together. And even though she would love Hank to be with her and Jesse, she will not move to Chicago.
When friends insist that Jesse and Celine spend their last night alone in a hotel the quick-witted banter and nimble dialogue becomes more intense. Unlike in the other movies Jesse and Celine now know each other inside out, they know which buttons to press and soon a walk at sunset through the village becomes foreplay, which in the Hotel then escalates from mild irritation into a full-blown row.
As always Delpy is mesmerizing to watch, her fiery temper exploding on screen and her ever-changeable moods a true testament of her talent. But Hawke is equally good with his excellently timed one-lines and raw emotions. And while both Hawke and Delpy are named as co-writers it is evident that Linklater has yet again created an imaginative, honest and very real script
Before Midnight is about the battle of the sexes, a portrait of how lovers can unknowingly trample each others dreams and how time changes relationships. Unlike the earlier movies Before Midnight takes a look at “what happens next”, the gentle promises and tender optimism of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are replaced with, at times callous, honesty and unconditional acceptance. A true love-story, one Hollywood seldom tells.
But will they make it? A question Celine asks herself as she mutters this years best last line in a Movie: ‘That must have been a hell of a night, we are about to have!”