That movie saw twenty-somethings Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as American tourist Jesse and Celine, a student at the Sorbonne, strangers who meet on a European train. They flirt and talk about life, death and everything in between, and in the process fall in love, if only for one night.
A second film, “Before Sunset,” saw the pair meet again in Paris nine years later. Jesse is now a successful author, having penned a steamy novel about their night on the train. They reconnect onthe French leg of a promotional tour for the novel and spend another day talking, but this time it’s different. They aren’t the flippant kids iof the first movie, and this time around they acknowledge the instinctual link that binds them. It also ends with one of the sexiest lines in the movies: “Baby, you are gonna miss that plane.”
The new film, “Before Midnight,” brings them together at yet another stage of their lives—as a committed couple with twin daughters. This time they’re on vacation in Greece contemplating the changing nature of their relationship over the years since they first met.
If you’re a fan of the “Before” movies—and I am an unabashed admirer—the experience of watching “Before Midnight” will be like reconnecting with old friends.
There is an authenticity to these films that comes from director Richard Linklater’s subtle style. Long documentary style conversational takes and terrific natural performances from the cast—particularly Hawke and Delpy who are required to carry the weight, emotional and otherwise of the film—allow the ideas and dialogue to take center stage.
Written by Linklater, Delpy and Hawke it delves into all manner of relationships. A dinner guest (Xenia Kalogeropoulou) movingly describes how she attempts to keep her late husband’s memory alive. A young couple (Ariane Labed and Yiannis Papadopoulos) discuss the future and an old married couple (Athina Rachel Tsangari and Panos Koronis) playfully spar.
The heart of the film, however, is the long conversations between Hawke and Delpy. They discover that fissures develop no matter how deep or solid the connection between two people.
“Before Midnight” is beautifully real stuff that fully explores the doubts and regrets that characterize Jesse and Celine’s love affair. Done with humor, heart and pathos, often in the same scene, it is a poignant farewell to two characters who grew up in front of us.
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