Thursday, January 2, 2014


Before Midnight

Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke

     If all movies could be as well written, acted and directed as Richard Linklater's Before Midnight. This is what an honest relationship film should be like. This is what happens when all parts are clicking on all cylinders. I loved every second of this film. Being invested in Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine's (Julie Delpy) lives from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, I feel like a friend, but also, someone that is in love with movies like this, and loves when something is presented that is so real, honest, heartbreaking and warming. Something funny and truthful. Something that is damn perfect. Before Midnight is an absolute joy and left me with a beautiful appreciation of what Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have accomplished.
     We pick up with Jesse and Celine, nine years from our last encounter with them in Paris. At the end of the second film Before Sunset, we were left with whether Jesse missed his plane back to the states and stayed with Celine in her Paris apartment. Well, he did. Now, the two have been together, not married, but are in love and have two daughters. Before Midnight starts with Jesse taking his son, from his marriage he abandoned to start, continue, his life with Celine, to a Greek airport. His son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), has spent the summer with his dad and Celine, and has to go back to the U.S. for the beginning of his first year of high school. Jesse is reluctant, scared and misses seeing his son growing up. We then go to Jesse, Celine and their two daughters driving to a writer friends house in Greece. A beautiful, real, honest and unpretentious conversation, done in a long take while driving, about every and any thing that occurs during parenthood, careers, a little politics (of course from Celine) and the openness of the their relationship and family. We are right back into these two peoples lives and the excitement soaks right in. I could listen to these two talk for hours on end.
     The journey goes on, a long dinner with friends. The film settles in, but really kicks into gear once it is just the two love birds walking through the Greek hills. Talking. Yes, the beauty and fruitfulness of their conversations is some of the most intoxicating in all of cinema. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke just fit right into these characters. It almost feels like these characters are part of their real lives in an honest way. Of course they are acting, but nothing feels contrived, arrogant or fake. It is looking at ourselves through these two. Looking at our relationships and lives. Linklater is examining the reality and, in a highly truthful exhibition, the difficulties of love and relationships. The complexity that arises during the initial courtship, the reunion and, now, the lived in relations of this family. All the extra, chunky nonsense is nonexistent in this film, as with the other two. An honest appraisal, without judgment or ridicule. A look into the lives of a real relationship. This is cinema at its finest.
     Jesse and Celine's friends have reserved a lavish hotel room for the couple. A night away from the kids. A night of romance, wine and the realities and difficulties of an ongoing relationship. They begin with a hope of making love, but for the rest of the film, we get one of the most honest, verbal fights and personality clashes from these filmmakers. I will not spoil, for those that have not seen the film yet, any of the beauty and heartache that goes on between them, but it so engaging, magical and real, that I was hanging on every word and movement. Delpy and Hawke shine so bright here, not that they do not in the whole film and trilogy, but they have never been better. They, along with Linklater, know exactly who these characters and what they are going through. They present the hurt and struggle of a real, complex relationship. Jesse would like to move to Chicago to be close to his son, but Celine will not have it. She wants to advance her career and be more than just a stay at home mother. She is so sensational here. She stabs, jabs and really gets at he heart of a woman that is at a crossroads with herself, but knows exactly who she is, who her partner is and the confusion of where she wants to go next with her life. Amazing, amazing, amazing! She rails on Jesse and his writing, especially the continuation of him writing about their meeting and life in his novels, and how she does all the work with the kids and at home. They are both so fascinating in this film, but Delpy is delivering at such a high, brilliant level. Ok, Hawke is absolutely fantastic as well. And, that is all I am going to give away about this end of the film. Sorry. Could not help myself.
     It took me awhile to finally watch the first two films in this set of films from Richard Linklater. I think the wait added to my appreciation of the excellent craftsmanship and presentation. I am married now and can relate to the happiness, beginners love and personality clashes and struggles that occur during a relationship. It is never easy. Two different people, living together and invading each others privacy. Then, kids take even more of that privacy away, but you would never not want those children around. They extend your family and extend each other. These films are so valid, important, poignant, funny, riveting and dramatic. I have such an appreciation for what Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have created. Something, in the cinema realm, that is honest, brutal and ideal for us that love seeing reality on the screen. It is personal. When I first saw Before Sunset, I do not think I blinked during the last thirty minutes of that film. I wanted to see them together, but they were in in difficult, challenging situations. They have done that and even more in Before Midnight. The love birds have gone to long term relationship with a family. Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have stepped their game up another notch and delivered a highly successful, truthful look at a relationship in flux. A relationship that is growing from the clueless, dreamy romanticism of Before Sunrise to the lived-in, deep realities of a relationship evolving and in change.
     Before Midnight is perfect. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have written a film that is full of pure and heartbreaking honesty. A film that is full of hilarious moments and serious dramatic turns. They have presented something that almost feels like a documentary on real relationships. The acting is impeccable and astounding. The directing and writing is fluid, not forced and as good as it gets. I loved all of this film and the other two in the Before trilogy. I hope we get another film in nine or ten years, and see where these two, who met on a train in Vienna, are at. I know when I am seeing something special and great. Before Midnight is that great film that comes along every so often that holds you by every word and scene. This is easily one of the best of the year. Linklater has left us with another cliffhanger like he did at the end of Before Sunset and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Photo credit by IMDB.

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