movie film review | chris tookey

Before Midnight

© Unknown - all rights reserved
  Before Midnight Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
8.50 /10
Julie Delpy , Ethan Hawke , Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick

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

Released: 2013
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 108

Talky, but it’s good talk.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

Like Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Before Midnight is a hugely welcome antidote to summer blockbusters.

Fans of the first two films in this series, Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), will need no encouragement to see the third. This is one of the few sequels for which the cliche “eagerly awaited” is truly applicable.

Before Sunrise was all about the sexual attraction and culture clash between two young people, American Jesse (Ethan Hawke, pictured left) and French Celine (Julie Delpy, pictured right) who met on a train in Europe. Many people liked it more than I did. I found the young Celine over-earnest and humourless, and Jesse charmless, bland and not very interesting.

The second film, Before Sunset, reunited them nine years on, with her an environmentalist and him a successful novelist because of the book he wrote about their love affair. This time, they were much more vulnerable, sympathetic and battered by life, and the love story about them falling for each other all over again was one of the most delightful, realistic and subtly subversive in years. By now, Hawke and Delpy were not only playing their roles, they were co-writing them with director Richard Linklater.

Nine years further on, our hero and heroine are married, living in Paris but on holiday in Greece. Needless to say, they are still arguing. He is racked with guilt by his failure to be a proper father to his teenage son by his first marriage, and would like to move to Chicago. She has a flourishing career in Paris and feels they are drifting apart, despite their twin daughters.

Many people, especially the young, may find it hard to empathise with the problems of a middle-aged couple for whom love is no longer as ardent and sexual as it used to be. The impatient will dismiss Before Midnight as depressing, static and talky.

However, the talk is refreshingly articulate, and will strike many a chord with audiences over the age of 30. Celine is very much a “glass half empty” person, determined to look on the dark side of everything. Jesse is more optimistic and easy-going. They make a good pair, but you can see why they quarrel.

The Me-generation values shared by both characters continue to look suspect in the way they dress up selfishness to look like a disinterested quest for self-fulfilment; but they are honestly and endearingly expressed.

In the end, you can’t help but like these people, and it’s a delightful shock to walk into a cinema and find intelligence, wit and emotional maturity. Before Midnight is not for everyone, but if you’re in search of fine acting (so good that it doesn’t look like acting), believable dialogue and masses of subtext, you shouldn’t miss it.

Key to Symbols