Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy; Direction: Richard Linklaster; Story and Screenplay: Richard Linkleater, Ethan Hawk, Julie Delpy; Cinematography: Christos Voudouris; Editing: Sandra Adair; Music: Graham Reynolds; Producers: Richard Linklater, Christos Konstantakopoulos; Genre: Drama; Running Time: 109 minutes; Location: Greece; Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Technical assessment : 4
Moral assessment: 3
MTRCB rating: R 16
CINEMA Rating: V 18
In 1995, Celine and Jesse meet for the first time, flirt with each other as they stroll along the streets of Vienna but go separate ways before sunrise. In 2004, Celine and Jesse, now in their 30s meet again in Paris, eager to find out and pick up where they left 9 years ago but unfortunately can’t because of each other’s commitment to someone else. Again, we see them part ways before sunset. Today, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse are (Ethan Hawke) blessed with lovely 9-year-old twin daughters after they got back together sometime after their second meeting. Presently, they are ending their Greek vacation and struggling not to do the same to their relationship as issues about parenting, career, responsibilities and commitment are brought up and argued about. Before Midnight is the third instalment of what is now a classic love story that surprisingly works despite being a series of scenes with “talking heads”. While Before Sunrise presented romance and courtship and Before Sunset brought forth the pain of love that could not be, Before Midnight shares the story of commitment, marriage and reconciling differences.
There has never been a movie that manages to keep its audience interestingly glued to just two people talking about their mundane personal life while watching through the windshield for a full 15-20 minutes. For those who journeyed with the couple’s love story for the last 18 years, this movie presents another phase of their story as they move from being carefree young lovers to parents struggling with responsibilities. For those who are watching the movie for the first time with no clue of their history, the movie is a slice of life featuring no intellectual conversations between spouses that need to be understood in an intellectual manner. The movie has no real conflict or drama and makes no pretentions to come up with one but it unfolds the melodramas of a relationship, a woman’s angst and a husband’s frustrations and each other’s resentments of failed expectations and personal disappointments. At one point, the conversation drifts from silly exchanges of historical data and hypothetical questions then slowly builds up to arguments about fears of giving up one’s life against disappointing one’s partner.
The movie works its magic with two of its strongest munitions: a great script and a greater performance. First, the script is conversationally emphatic. Simple and ordinary as the issues may seem, it is impossible not to see where Celine or Jesse is coming from. The build-up and the plateau of arguments are so cleverly directed. And best, the exchanges allows the audience to understand the personality, background and motivations of the characters. Second, Hawke and Delpy deliver genuine passion and bounce off undeniable chemistry. Together, the script and the actors deliver a powerful piece of movie everyone can understand and relate to.
Every mature couple should try to watch the film as it not only shows how honest and loving communication keeps the marriage alive despite all the personality differences and marital issues challenging the relationship. The movie is very real because most of the time, what destroys relationship are not the big problems that blow in the face but the small complications that go unnoticed and unresolved. The movie also offers lovely insights about life and commitment—the most valuable being the need to be constantly working on being a source of love and happiness to one’s partner. Love in Before Midnight goes beyond romance and the fairy tale but dumps real issues intertwined with the desire to continue to grow together and sort out differences as a team. It teaches couples to agree to disagree, to respect each other’s roles, and to remain faithful despite the challenges of raising a family.
There are scenes and ideas that may not be well taken by the very conservative and may be misunderstood by the very young. For instance, how Celine scoffs at the sacrament of marriage, the constant cursing, fidelity issues, and irreverent sexual jokes. Considering that Before Midnight focuses on a serious commitment, and presents footage of unwedded sexual intimacy, the film would be better suited for mature adults.