Film Review: BEFORE MIDNIGHT.

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delphy

This is the third installment of a trilogy that began in 1995 with the ethereal BEFORE SUNRISE, which took place in Vienna. There we met a young couple, Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delphy), who fell in love but parted at the film’s end, vowing to meet again a year later but not exchanging contact information. The meeting, or failure to meet, was not to be explained away. Ah, the romantic notions of twenty-somethings.

Nine years later, the two unexpectedly meet again in Paris (BEFORE SUNSET). Jesse is now a married novelist and Celine works for a non-profit. She attends a book talk he is giving in a Parisian bookstore. We find out why they didn’t meet eight years earlier, but the ending more than compensates for the painful disclosures.

Nine years on, we have the third film. The two are now parents of twin girls and on a vacation in Greece, subsidized by an admirer of Jesse’s work. The movie divides neatly into three acts. The first two peel away the outer layers of the onion in preparation for Act 3, which is a fight that is so cruel, true, and familiar that it takes your breath away. I don’t think we have ever witnessed a screened marital fight that so perfectly exposes the way such arguments work. Rational points soon give way to hysteria, recriminations, partial truths, repeated justifications. You gasp at how well the three writers have captured both the characters and every one of us along with them. And it is cleverly placed inside a modern hotel that pushes aside all of the charm of the Greek Isles. They seem to pass through time itself as they walk to the hotel.

It is hard to imagine that any better or more moving filmed examination of love will come along in my lifetime. Yes, it is exceedingly talky and at times pretentious. But that is who these people are. I don’t mind listening to constant conversation when it is of this caliber. Highly recommended.

Patti Abbott