I was a little nervous about seeing Before Midnight. I've never seen the previous films in the series: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The first film came out all the way back in 1995, so with that much history behind the film, I was afraid I might be lost without seeing the previous entries.
However, I've generally enjoyed writer/director Richard Linklater's films, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm glad I did. One of the great things about Before Midnight is that you don't have to see the previous films to understand what's going on or care about the characters. The story is so relatable that it doesn't matter. Whether you're married with kids, divorced or in a new relationship, you're going to find something familiar to latch on to here.
There's a very basic plot, as it's more of a character driven story. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are still a couple, and parents to twin girls. Jesse has a son from a previous marriage, and the film begins with him sending him back to the U.S. after spending time with them in Greece. Jesse is a successful author, but Celine is considering taking a new job. Concerned about being there for his son as he begins high school, Jesse debates whether or not they should consider a move back to the U.S. He never comes right out and says it though. Celine, on the other hand, really would like this new job, which means they'd have to stay put. This seed of an argument eventually sprouts as the movie goes on.
Linklater shared writing credits with Delpy and Hawke, and I have to wonder how much of this was letting the two of them just sink into the characters and let the dialog flow. It has some of the most natural feeling dialog I can recall seeing in a while. When these two are arguing, it really feels like they're a couple that's been together for 20 years. It also has some of the most creative insults I've seen. They're kind of insults that only people that have known each other a long time can throw at each other.
At some points you'll feel uncomfortable, like when you go out to dinner with a couple and then they start to fight, and you don't want them to fight, but you know exactly where it's coming from. Or worse yet, you've had this argument before. That's pretty much the last half of the film. Another thing that made latter half of the film uncomfortable, is that it starts with the two of them attempting to have sex. Delpy is naked, and Hawke is digging in, but then the phone rings, and that ends up triggering an epic argument.
It's not just all Hawke and Delpy though. Earlier in the film, there's a dinner scene with several couples where they are have a deep conversation about life and love and it's absolutely fascinating. I think the scene went on for a good 20 minutes, but I completely lost track of time as I was involved in the scene. I ended up wishing I could have been sitting at that table and engaging in this great conversation. This part of the film would be great to watch with friends as a launching point for your own conversation about the same. I point this part out to note that it's not all completely serious. There's definitely some funny dialog, so you don't walk out of this film depressed or bummed out.
Before Midnight was an absolute pleasure to watch. It's smart, brilliantly written and acted, sometimes funny, and is easily one of the best films of 2013. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to watch a great film about life, love and relationships. This one's likely going to end up in my top ten of the year.
5 (out of 5) Death Stars