Dir: Richard Linklater
Stars: Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke
Back in 1995 Richard Linklater made Before Sunrise, a story of two strangers who meet on a train and fall in love. We were introduced to American tourist Jesse and French student Celine as they spend a romantic night in Vienna together. In 2004 they encounter each other again in Before Sunset on Jesse’s French book tour, discovering that although their lives have moved on, the feelings they have for each other haven’t changed. Both films were both critically acclaimed and much loved; the chemistry between the leads and sizzling dialogue ensured they were a notch above almost every other romantic comedy.
Before Midnight takes place 9 years later. Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) have settled down together and started a family. The film opens as they are reaching the end of their Greek holiday, Jesse seeing his son off at the airport before rejoining Celine and their daughters for the last couple of days of their vacation. Staying with a respected writer and his friends at a rural retreat, the couple find themselves coming to terms with the practicalities of daily life and the disparity between what they both desire and their current circumstances.
The first two films are both great favourites of mine, but admittedly they appeal more to those of us who are hopeless romantics. ‘Midnight, on the other hand, deals with the realities of family life and difficulties that are part and parcel with any long-term relationship. The dialogue is sharper and funnier than ever, with the repartee between the couple almost flawless. The film is essentially split into three acts with short intermissions from the antagonism connecting them together; beginning with a spark, then gaining momentum, before the final showdown in a hotel room at the end. The first sections merely a prelude to the fireworks in the finale as they both finally erupt.
Before Midnight could have been gruelling, but the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke is electrifying, the script peppered with light relief and tenderness. The trio wrote the script collaboratively, the actors’ deep investment in the characters allowing them to improvise around a theme; delivering the most mesmerising performances of their lives. They clearly have a lot invested in their characters. What makes ‘Midnight so powerful, and easily one of the best films of the year so far, is a combination of the honesty and realism embedded in every scene. It’s a perfect ending to one of the best trilogies of modern cinema, and works just as well as a stand alone movie.
Before Midnight is out now at the Showroom http://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/beforemidnight