Before Midnight

You’re probably going to want to see Before Midnight without knowing what happened to Jesse and Celine since last time.

If you remember the cliffhanger ending of the second movie Before Sunset, Celine was serenading Jesse in her Paris apartment. We don’t know whether he left to catch the flight or stay there with the girl he hadn’t seen since they first met nine years ago in the first movie, Before Sunrise.

If you’re going to watch Before Midnight, you’ll find out what happened in Paris at the end of the last movie after about ten minutes. But don’t let me spoil it for you, so here’s everything you need to know, but without giving away any of the stuff you really don’t want to know.

  1. Before Midnight really is as good, if not better than Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. If anything, these movies have increased in quality over time, with each installment improving the last. Whether that’s reflective of one’s days in love remains to be seen, and is the central theme of Before Midnight, which finds the protagonists in their early forties, questioning precisely that.
  2. It takes half an hour to really get going. OK, the first couple of scenes are impressive, particularly the ten-minute single take in which two of the main characters converse as if in a documentary while driving through the hills of southern Peloponnese (where this movie is set). But for the first twenty minutes, you do wonder if Before Midnight is going to live up to the previous two.
  3. Unlike the other two movies, this movie has reasonably substantial supporting roles, and it’s as though Richard Linklater stole them from the set of an olive oil commercial. The sagely old novelist and his family are way too well-adjusted for comfort, especially the two young lovers, who are just pure yuck.
  4. But don’t worry, the supporting cast disappears after 45 minutes. And once they do, you realise they served a purpose as an overly idealised backdrop to our favourite couple, setting us up for a fall. This is something that wasn’t exactly missing from the other two movies, because we as the audience were the context. The characters were so well observed, we could immediately relate to their fears, hopes, lusts, anxieties, and recognized them in ourselves, which we still do, so the presence of the family is probably the only misstep in three whole movies.
  5. The dialogue in Before Midnight is the best to feature in a movie since Before Sunrise. Being able to capture and audience – and in the screening I saw, the whole room was utterly captivated – with nothing but dialogue and character is a marvelous feat in the 21st century, and one we should cherish. Bring on the fourth installment.

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