before-midnight-4

At first glance, Richard Linklater‘s romantic drama Before Midnight, appears to be about an older man and woman reaching their 40s together. But upon viewing, it’s really an examination of a couple as they dissect and figure out their continually budding relationship. It’s a beautiful collaboration between the filmmaker and two actors who poured their hearts into every scene.

The Players:

  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Writers: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
  • Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
  • Cinematography: Christos Voudouris
  • Original Music By: Graham Reynolds

Plot Synopsis:

Nine years have passed since we last saw Jesse and Celine. They’re still together and live in Greece where they face a new set of problems further challenging their complicated relationship.

The Good:

  • Years Later: One of the most difficult things about creating Before Midnight is adjusting to the amount of time that’s passed since the previous films. How do you introduce a new audience to the lives of Jesse and Celine? Since the writers are well-aware of the characters, they took the time to fully sculpt out how they’ve grown. The movie does a great job of reintroducing the couple without resorting to lazy flashbacks or voice-over exposition. It would be insulting to the audience if they used those cheap tactics because they know we’re much smarter than that.
  • Dialogue: Dialogue is tricky to deal with, especially in a movie set in the real world. You’re with a group of characters who talk normally about problems that many of us face, even in the romantic sector. In the film we get natural, smooth, flowing conversations that appear simple in structure but contain subtle symbolic meaning to the problems at hand. An example of this is the lengthy but well-done dinner scene as the table goes through their love stories spanning through generations.
  • Linklater’s Vision: There are so many well thought out scenes that carry the stamp of filmmaker Richard Linklater. He doesn’t shy away from keeping the camera focused on the couple as they go through difficult times. For example, the scene where they discuss whether or not they should move to the States to be closer to Jesse’s first child. Linklater is very aware of the surroundings of the ancient city in Greece and uses the landscape and light to his advantage. It’s the backdrop as the characters travel through the rocky terrain hopefully to their relationship’s salvation. Whenever he focuses on them and doesn’t riddle us with carefully selected shots, there’s a reason for that and we have to pay attention.
  • Jesse and Celine: As most people do, Jesse and Celine have changed a bit. They’ve grown more as they’ve reached another landmark decade in their lives, but this time as a family. There’s a lot going on with each of them as the scenes trickle on. You can see the actors peel the layers of the latest version of their characters as they go through discussions about life and love. Hawke and Delpy play them flawlessly due to their experience and they’re incredibly fascinating to watch. You can see Jesse and Celine exist and function in the real world. We wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t permanently engraved in some small way within these actors’ own personas.

The Decent:

  • The Score: While Graham Reynolds’ soft but noticeable score fit into the film, it felt repetitive at times. It was still subtle enough to not overwhelm the picture. It didn’t take the attention away from our characters and their story.
  • The Length: This may sound like a weird complaint, but the film could have been longer. For some, they may have felt like it dragged, but for us it could have run for another 10 or 20 minutes. It’s not really a complaint, just more of an observation.

The Bad:

  • Nothing here.

Overall:

Before Midnight is the kind of romantic drama that most filmmakers working in the genre should aspire to create .

Rating: 9.5/10

Before Midnight is out in theaters now.

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Trailer: