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before midnight

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shine again in BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shine again in BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Thankfully, Richard Linklater’s third instalment in the “Before” trilogy is a triumph.

It’s hard to believe that it’s eighteen years since we were introduced to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) at their first meeting on the train hurtling through Austria. BEFORE SUNRISE chronicled their night exploring Vienna and their burgeoning romance.  Nine years later, BEFORE SUNSET witnessed their reunion in Celine’s home town, Paris. Now, we have BEFORE MIDNIGHT, with the couple going through a mid life crisis in Greece.

True to the original template, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is a travelogue talk-fest shot in long takes that serves an inherent honesty and truth in narrative and performance.

Credited as co screenwriters, Hawke and Delpy have coalesced their characters into a compelling coupling that has the verisimilitude that comes with genuine, grounded relationship. It’s like 7UP but polished and honed. Jesse and Celine take us to the coalface of long term  relationships as the mundane mendacity of domesticity assails the ramparts of romance gives it the dramatic frisson. We fell in love with the previous movies as the couple fell in love with each other. Now nine years on, we still love these characters, even though they might not be still in love with each other.

At the film’s beginning, Jesse is farewelling his son from his first marriage, and is considering returning to the States to spend more time with him.

Celine seems to have become shrill, disappointed with how the relationship has panned out, motherhood and marriage having marginalised her career ambitions. Jesse, always the greater romantic, to the point of fashioning a fiction around their lives, turning their love story into a tale for mass consumption, remains the incurable romantic, desperately trying to allay any derailment of their relationship.

Intelligent, mature and funny, boasting the best dialogue from an American picture this year, BEFORE MIDNIGHT nevertheless has the worm of worry built into its title. Will this midnight summer dream turn into a domestic nightmare, growing darker before the dawn, the fairy tale ending faltering and fading?

Here’s hoping there will be BEFORE DAWN  nine years hence, but if not, we’ll always have SUNRISE, SUNSET, MIDNIGHT as one of the great trilogies in movie history. Give me middle age over middle earth any day!



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