Before Midnight, a film by Richard Linklater is the third installment in this filmmaker’s 18-year spanning cinematic portrait of two lovers, which also includes Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004).
The Latest film picks up nine years after Before Sunset, putting us at the end of the couples’ summer holiday in Greece. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Deply) are now married with twins and Jesse’s son from his previous marriage has left to go back to Chicago. Before Midnight is a philosophical stroll into the life of this wonderfully articulate and often hilarious Couple. Jesse and Celine are both autonomous intellects, he is a writer who has published two novels inspired by his relationship with Celine and she is an environmental activist. After meeting and falling in love in the first film of the series and re-kindling that love in the second, this film explores whether the connection between these two characters is still alive, and the answer is a resounding yes.
Linklater’s formula may not be groundbreaking, but it is the articulate heart and passionate minds of these characters that make them compelling. Jesse and Celine are both facing different challenges; Celine is contemplating a promotion at work while Jesse is worrying whether he needs to move back to the States to be a more present figure in his son’s life. These two issues clash together and spark a conundrum in their relationship. Celine battles the feminist question of whether she needs to continually sacrifice for the good of her family especially her husband at the cost of her own career and goals, while wrestling with the guilt of being a road-block to Jesse going to live near his son. Though they do not solve their issues, they find a meeting point while preserving the individuality that they both cherish. The banter between the two is all the more enlightening because it reveals a complex argument across philosophical lines concerning love, gender roles, sex and ultimately the nature of being alive. Before Midnight is a testament, the third time over, that Jesse and Celine have barrels of passion left to burn with great humor and candor.