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Before Midnight

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The ‘Before’ films have their share of staunch devotees, and while I’ve never been one of the most rabid, I’ve always appreciated the quality. There is something of an air of privileged white Westerners whining when things couldn’t be more perfect, but that’s Linklater’s point – things are never perfect.

Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) were ruminating as much 20 years before on their night in Vienna. As romantic as it was to fall in love in a foreign city with an exotic stranger, they both knew fantasy would undermine reality and that the night they spent together would probably be the best hours of their relationship, if they had one.

Before Sunset finished on a very intriguing note, of Jesse not too worried about missing his flight back to the US after spending the day with Celine when he meets her in a book signing. He was a successful author, unhappy husband and devoted father, but we were left wondering if he was prepared to throw it all away for the promise of what Celine’s existence in his life seemed to promise.

Before Midnight answers that question. It’s another decade later and Jesse and Celine are together with two beautiful young daughters. Jesse is seeing the son from his first marriage off at the airport, sending him back home to America and feeling very conflicted about where he belongs.

The first half of the movie shows the couple talking about love and relationships through the prism of their fellow man – they’ve spent summer in Greece at a writer’s retreat, surrounded by other love affairs both young and old, all of them with different perspective.

It’s getting towards the end of the trip and their friends have bought them a night in a hotel room away from the kids, but by the time Jesse and Celine have driven and walked around town, spent time with their friends in an extended lunch scene and arrived at the hotel, reality can’t help but break through.

They’re both getting older, Celine worried she’s not making an impact on the world like she always wanted, Jesse worried that his son needs a father in his life. Despite their idyllic surroundings and their economic freedom, a blistering fight breaks out. It’s here Linklater and his writing partners (including Delpy and Hawke themselves) take flight. The dialogue isn’t improvised, but it all feels so natural and realistic you’re truly a fly on the wall.

Like the other two films it’s talky, but it’s for adults, it has a brain as well as a heart, and it’s never less than completely authentic. The rose coloured glasses are well and truly off no matter how gilded things seem from the outside, and Linklater and his cast take you right into the prickly midst of it.

DVD : Excellent assortment of extras include a commentary, Q&A session and featurette.

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About Drew Turney

An Australian-based film critic and celebrity interviewer now based in Los Angeles, California.
Author: Drew Turney
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