Title: “Before Midnight”
Director: Richard Linklater
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Richard Linklater is clearly the master of the “talkie” movie. With movies like “Waking Life” and “Before Sunrise,” which are movies that are nothing but people talking and talking, you might think it would get boring. But nope. They remain fascinating throughout, and “Before Midnight” is no exception.
“Before Midnight” is the third movie in a series which started with “Before Sunrise” and was followed by “Before Sunset.” In the first movie, we meet idealistic 20-somethings Jesse and Celine who randomly meet on a train that stops in Vienna. We watch as they walk through Vienna and talk and talk, realizing that they’re in love, but Jesse has to catch a train at sunrise. They promise to meet up at the same train station in six months, but nine years later in “Before Sunset” we find out that this meeting never happened when they bump into each other again in Paris. Jesse is now a writer and is married with a son, but never stopped loving Celine despite losing her before. Their romance is rekindled, with Jesse admitting that he’s only stayed married for the sake of their child, and while he has a plane to catch at sunset, he chooses to miss that plane and stay with Celine.
Nine years further on, we get “Before Midnight.” Jesse and Celine are now married and living in Europe, but things aren’t going great. Celine is unhappy work-wise and finding fullfilment in life, and to make matters worse Jesse wants to move their family (they have twin daughters) back to the States so he can be closer to his son. Taking place during a single day while on a family vacation in Greece, the film ultimately ends on a slightly ambiguous note like the previous films.
To say this project is ambitious is an understatement. Begun 18 years ago, these movies catch up with the same actors every nine years as they evolve and change and involve nothing but them talking and talking, about life, themselves, philosophy, etc. This film is slightly different in that for a good portion of the film, they are not alone and there are other participant in their conversations. These conversations always feels interesting and accessible.
Why only 3 stars? It more has to do with comparing this movie to the previous films. “Before Sunrise” was magical and full of hope. “Before Sunset” felt like a course correction that needed to happen in these characters’ lives and gave a hopeful feeling as well, although it wasn’t quite as magical as the first movie. This movie is far more depressing as we witness the possible dissolution of Jesse and Celine’s relationship, characters who we have rooted for and become attached to for two decades, and it drains the film of a lot of its magic. It feels like a downer, if not a betrayal, even if it’s “real.” We want to see them work it out. We want to see their love last. But we’re not sure if it will.
With the usual beautiful scenery and interesting dialogue, this film continues Jesse and Celine’s journey even though this film is more depressing than the previous two. It will be interesting to see if they continue this project in another decade and we find out what happened when clock struck midnight.
“Before Midnight” earns 3 out of 5 stars.