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Before Midnight (2013)

July 26, 2013

10/10 True Connections

Well if that just isn’t the best trilogy I’ve ever seen.

Before Midnight picks up nine years after we last caught up with Jesse and Celine. Celine’s thinking of taking a new job at an environmental agency and Jesse’s a bonafide man of letters with a new novel on the way. Oh, and they’re also now parents to two adorable twin girls. That’s right, folks. Turns out things went pretty well for these two after Jesse missed his flight in Paris; so well, in, fact that he ended his failing marriage to start his new family in Europe. To his credit, he still spends summers with his son from the failed marriage and they have a pretty great relationship considering. Still, his regrets are deep over not being there for him during these formative teenage years. So, as Jesse and Celine spend some much-needed vacation time, the strength of their relationship is put to the test as their wants and needs come to a head.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get acquainted, but it wasn’t until last month that I finally decided to meet these two. Fashionably late as usual, but, as you can see, they made quite the impression. On that note, I’m thinking a foreword is probably in order for those just getting the invite. First off,  you owe it to yourself to make an introduction. By all means, consider this your mutual connection, because for all of you out there who are strangers to these two, it’s hard to say what kind of purpose this review will serve. Not that Before Midnight isn’t phenomenal in its own right and couldn’t be enjoyed as a stand-alone entry, but anyone will tell you that it’s hard imagine Midnight without Sunrise and Sunset.

As for why that is, well, the thing about these three movies is the way they complement one another. It was a simple formula to begin with – simple as could be, really – and it really hasn’t changed in the slightest. It’s one boy and one girl talking about life, love and what have you for two hours, only this time they’re a little older. Might not sound like movie magic to the uninitiated, it might even sound downright boring for all you swingin’ singles out there. I’ll even agree, because with someone else steering the ship and a different cast in the spotlight, this formula wouldn’t work as well as it does. With the Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy running things ? Well, there’s the catch.

Once again, Jesse and Celine are the most non-fictional fictional characters you’ll ever meet, characters you half-expect to break through the fourth wall and ask for your thoughts on Tolstoy as they top off your glass of wine. It’s all part of Linklater’s rambling, colloquial writing style that’s been honed down to a science and the natural, effortless rapport between Hawke and Delpy that makes you wonder if there’s even a script at all. Oh yes, it’s still harder than ever to determine where the credit is due, but it’s one hell of a problem to have, one that’s always made these movies so special for18 years.

It’s also that simple, instant and unforgettable connection between Jesse and Celine that makes them so easy to connect with in turn. By the time they got off that train in 1995; from that moment he saw her in that Paris bookshop; when he walks out of the airport to find her leaning against the car – every encounter’s more magnetic than the last. Never have I been so eager to sit there like a fly on the wall listening to two people talk about life, love and what have you. With each time I left them, I found myself counting down the days until our next encounter, wondering incessantly about what they’re up to now. It’s not all that different from meeting Arthur Agee and William Gates for the first time, mainly because A) they’re likable as all hell, and B) they’re easy to relate to on an inherently human level.

Whereas Sunrise was about meeting your first love, Sunset was about rekindling old flames. As for Midnight, this one’s trying to keep the flame alive. You don’t need to have hands-on training to know these experiences are inevitable in life, and, with stories like these, relatability comes standard.

Now, I’ve only been married for a little over a year now, don’t have any kids and have a ways to go ’til 40. Nevertheless, I was still surprised by how much Midnight hit home. Don’t get me wrong, married life is tops and the thrill’s alive and kickin’, but there’s a point in this movie where things get pretty emotional and, good god, does it paint the picture. Believe it or not, boys and girls, but even the best of couples out there get in the occasional lovers’ quarrel, and if you’re wondering how it goes down then you can look no further. Still, as true-to-life as it is, it’s staggering to watch it play out.

Hell, this is Jesse and Celine we’re talking about, the two people who have been redeeming our faith in love for almost two-freaking-decades! Not only that, but a good 15 minutes before they lay it all out there, they’re sitting on a pier watching the sun go down like the adorable bastards that they are. It was at this point that I realized how long I’d been smiling, wondering to myself why there aren’t enough stories like this in the world, stories where two people can just be happy together without throwing down the gauntlet. I guess that’s why I was so taken aback some 15 minutes later when the gloves come off, but, once again, it manages to work.

I should probably point out that their fight could have been a whole lot worse than it ends up being, and it’s actually hard to stop smiling throughout, if only because of how ridiculously accurate it is. It’s also been a long time since we’ve caught up with these two and the last time we saw them and they were just beginning to show their true colors to one another. After all, there’s only so much you can learn about a person in two days’ time, so after nine years of living together, it makes sense that they’d be far more brutally open with one another. For a series that’s prided itself on this facade of reality it’s created, it’s only fitting to show the lows with the highs.

Ugh, I could go on. It’s just one of those movies.

Given that the human race will never run out of stories about life, love and what it is to be human, the point of this whole spiel is that, of all the ones I’ve heard, none have managed to capture them the way the Before trilogy always has. I know the whole “talking heads” thing isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time and it’s hard to say if this would convert them in the way Glengarry Glen Ross probably would. I’ll admit, there were even moments where I – the guy who gave this his first 10 of the year – caught myself drifting off during Jesse and Celine’s self-proclaimed “bullshit” sessions. And while Before Midnight is more of the same in many regards, compliments like that are hard to come by in this industry. It’s the funniest entry yet, it’s the most revealing entry as well and, like the first two entries before it, Before Midnight serves as a constant reminder of what little you need to tell a great, real story.

In just the short time that I’ve known them, having the opportunity to watch Jesse and Celine meet, reconnect and grow old together has been rewarding in ways that almost make me feel grateful. It’s the things they talk about, the way they talk about them and the way I’ve seen my own experiences reflected time and time again in theirs. Their love for one another is as timeless and universal a thing as you’ll ever find and, unless we see Before Noon in nine years, I don’t imagine the magic between them ever being replicated.

Who knew lightning could be bottled this long?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2013 12:10 am

    True. Although there are not so many twists in this movie, I still feel the connection between them is as strong as 20 years ago. Plus, I cannot help listening these songs over and over while thinking about how awesome the couple is.:)

    • July 26, 2013 8:21 am

      Interesting point. Care to elaborate on the kind of “twists” you’re referring to? Thought the last half hour was the biggest one of the whole trilogy.

      And I’m right there with you, what an awesome couple.

  2. July 26, 2013 4:06 am

    Reblogged this on Rosevoc2's Blog and commented:

  3. July 26, 2013 3:56 pm

    Saw the first one, and I want to watch the last two. Are they available for Netflix? And yes, I agree about the part where it says it’s so accurate. Best movie ever; it doesn’t even seem staged.
    By the way, are the movies PG-13 or anything? Just curious

    • July 29, 2013 3:09 pm

      Unfortunately, no, they’re not on Netflix Instant. But if you’re still a holdout like myself who gets DVDs in the mail, then yes, they’re definitely on Netflix, at least the first two are. And the realism really is the best part of these movies. Never seen anything like it, really is amazing.

      Pretty positive this one’s rated R, not sure about the others though. Hope you check it out and keep me posted if you do!

  4. July 28, 2013 5:22 pm

    I had seen the first two of these, and always wanted more! Stumbled upon this review and was so exited to see there was a third movie, so I watched them all over a couple days.

    Definitely thought provoking and has a good few laughs throughout. The chemistry between Jesse and Celine is incredible and it amazed me how long some of the takes are. It is a testament to their acting, and the strength of the story and writing that the cinematography could be so simple and still it is one of the most touching and powerful films.

    Raises many questions and thoughts in myself about relationships and the world, for sure. I like movies like that. Will definitely be checking out more works by Richard Linklater in the future! 🙂

    Great review!

    • July 29, 2013 3:12 pm

      Thanks! That sounds like the best couple days a person could ask for. Those long takes really do sum up everything that’s so wonderful and rare about these movies. It’s like the cameras aren’t even there and I love how it’s so easy to relate to what they’re talking about and going through from one period in their life to the next. Like I said, I could just ramble about this thing. So so so so good.

      I still have some homework to do on Linklater as well. Did you see Bernie by chance?

      • July 29, 2013 5:07 pm

        These are actually the only movies directed by Linklater that I’ve seen, but I like the style and I read that most of his pieces take place in short periods of time like this trilogy. Not the norm– which I like.

        What else have you seen by Linklater? What would you suggest I watch first?

        The point you made about their natural connection making it easier as the viewer to connect is so true. And the connections they make throughout their conversations keep it interesting. They start talking about one thing, and it just carries and flows so effortlessly through so many topics and so many existential questions.

        Made me want to talk more to people, ask more questions, and be more critical (in a positive, curious way). This is a big stirring inside– as an introvert– to want to talk more and prompt a bit of debate and harmless conflict in conversation.

      • August 1, 2013 9:33 am

        I never saw his first film Slacker, but it’s supposed to be very rambly, stream-of-conscious, dialogue-driven-stuff like this. Dazed and Confused is a good one, always heard good things about Waking Life (another talking heads movie) and A Scanner Darkly is one I’ve been meaning to see for a while now. All good places to start, or you could just do yourself and watch Bernie on Netflix Instant right now. That one’s fantastic.

        And you’re right, the conversations and connections that Jesse and Celine have really do make you want to emulate their interest in each other with those in your own life. Lots to learn from these two.

  5. July 29, 2013 3:55 pm

    Best film of the year so far.

  6. August 1, 2013 6:34 pm

    Damn good review, man. My favorite film of the year so far, and I hope we get to see them again in nine years.

    • August 1, 2013 7:08 pm

      Thanks, brotha, and same here, it’s the one to beat. Doesn’t

    • August 1, 2013 10:12 pm

      Whoops, sorry about that. Writing from my phone. Was saying that it doesn’t really need a fourth movie, it’s a pretty perfect trilogy as is, but who are we kidding, 2022 can’t get here fast enough.

  7. August 6, 2013 11:58 am

    Very, very nice as always. It’s funny: when I first started reading reviews of Midnight the writers were quick to hail it as: “The best of the three!” As you have touched on, that is almost an arbitrary distinction. This is part of the same movie; there are just just three different two hour chapters nine years apart. I am fascinated to no end that the writers/actors/directors have found a way to talk about the big stuff (aging, love, death, disappointment) without losing the light touch and the magic. Here’s to hoping we will be seeing Jesse an Celine again in nine years from now.

    • August 12, 2013 8:55 pm

      Thanks, Dusty! While I can understand why someone would say this is the best entry, it’s apples and oranges to compare this to, say, The Dark Knight trilogy. Each of them is so extraordinary in their own way and I can’t imagine trying to appreciate one of them without bringing the other two into the conversation. And it really is amazing how they’ve managed to keep the magic going after all the years and with SUCH a simple formula to work with. I’m with ya’, man. Can’t wait to see what they’re up to in nine years.


  1. The Best Movies of 2013: #20 – #1 | Cut The Crap Movie Reviews

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