Jesse, Céline and Linklater are a different sort of breed, when they work together. They invented cinematic magic in Before Sunrise, reveled in the afterglow and made it more beautiful in Before Sunset, and have now matured into a great team in Before Midnight. Each of these films have a gap of exactly nine years (1995, 2004 and 2013). So in a practical sense, the characters have aged along with us, in real-time. Never did I expect an already beautiful story to get better than the first two movies combined. Both the first two films ended in brilliant, ambiguous situations that left us with bi-polar answers to a single question. One seemed practical. Another stemmed from within heart. Either way, team Before.. succeeded each time (and have done it yet again) in one of the most accurate and authentic portrayals of love since Michel Gondry gave us Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
|Hawke and Delpy in Before Sunset (2004) and Before Sunrise (1995)|
The film is an absolute marvel, showcasing the very best dialogue and capturing the sheer essence of acting brilliance from stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Director Richard Linklater has also created the crowning work of his directorial career, showing incredible restraint and focus on two characters that still feel just as new and fresh as the day we met them. The film opens with a near fifteen minute take that gets its hook into you and never lets up. It's a cinematic sensation.
The writing is astounding. Sharp, intelligent, biting, humorous, with staggering subtext, but most importantly, it feels real. If the screenplay doesn't get an Oscar nomination it would be a shame.
Midnight takes place nine years after the events of Sunset. Jesse and Céline are still together and have managed to have twin girls, Nina and Ella, and are living in Europe. The film takes place at the tail end of a six-week vacation in Greece where Jesse has just dropped off his thirteen-year-old son Hank, from his previous marriage, at the airport for his return back to Chicago. Realizing that he's missing the formative years of Hank's teenage life, Jesse and Céline explore the option of possibly making a move to America, leaving opportunities and a life in Europe behind.
The acting is flawless, and so is the writing. The movie could so easily have become nothing more than two privileged white people moaning about their white person problems, but it instead gets right at the heart of what makes simple day-to-day living, even when nothing major is wrong with your life and even when you can admit that to yourself, so difficult. Before Midnight is very sincere in that it openly discusses lots of interesting things and everyday problems. It actually consists of couple major dialogues that clearly expose whole spirit of plot. There is a dining scene where characters discuss their first sexual intercourse or just their sex lives and I was surprised how precise, natural and nice each word was. It did not "scream" as it happens in most of films. Each and every other dialogue was a masterpiece, very quiet, peaceful and calmly emotional. The last scene in the bedroom which actually last half an hour, just runs very quickly because of beautifully written script (which Hawke and Delpy co-wrote), the poster child for screen writing and brilliant storytelling for years to come.
Ethan Hawke is an actor that never quite caught onto the awards circuit for some odd reason. Nominated for his performance alongside Denzel Washington in Training Day, Hawke has shown tremendous range throughout his career including missed opportunities for recognition in Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. As Jesse this time around, Hawke uses every ounce of magnetism, charisma, and acting ability to bring himself to the levels of legendary actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Marlon Brando. He becomes a man all too familiar to the male viewer and ignites the film into a spectacular frenzy of passion. Hawke isn't afraid to show the inner turmoil of Jesse as the growing cancer of guilt has come to the surface. He works moment after moment in expressing the bewildering beauty of love at the expense of one's own values and sacrifice. He's almost the distant, and utterly toned down, cousin of Freddie Quell from Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, a man so complex but inserted with terrific character beats and an actor willing to commit entirely to the craft to portray him flawlessly. Hawke surpasses not only his past features but the very being of himself as an actor. It's his finest turn yet.
Julie Delpy is as imaginative and magnetic as ever. She's a wonderful presence, often a very skillful example of acting on the finest level. She executes the pure feelings of uncertainty in conjuncture with the script which is a clear and marvelous character study on love. She's wildly immersed into Céline, accomplishing not only a somewhat free- spirited damaged woman but a sex appeal that triggers any person's romantic desires. She's an effortless existence in the film, which makes Céline not only explicitly real, but tenderly and mysteriously loving for the viewer. It's a performance that defines her abilities as an actress and one that will be remembered fifty years from now as we all think back on the amazement of Julie Delpy.
The film is breathtakingly accurate and precise in capturing the love and relationship of couples, it will and should be studied by film schools and writers for years to come. Linklater bares his soul, frame after frame, showing confidence of his own idiosyncratic vision of this story and being as accessible to even the youngest of people. This is Linklater's most personal tribute to the scope of cinema and will be his defining moment on the silver screen. The film is a must-see and is the first masterpiece that 2013 has to offer. Before Midnight is an instant Oscar-contender and a triumph in filmmaking.