'Before Midnight' review: The next brilliant chapter of a great film romance
'Before Midnight' is the rare sequel that is exponentially better than its predecessor ('Before Sunset'), which was a masterpiece in its own right.
In short: Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), who first met on a train 18 years ago and met again in 2004, now live together in Paris with their twin daughters. As they walk through a small Greek village, they ponder their relationship and their future. (watch the trailer)
'Before Sunrise' was one of the great romances of all time. Its sequel, 'Before Sunset,' ranks among the greatest film sequels of all time. Now 'Before Midnight' will cement the 'Before' series as one of - if not the - greatest film trilogies ever, while also surpassing the greatness of 'Sunset.'
One of the first scenes is a simple conversation Jesse and Celine share while they drive. They chat about Celine's current job and how terrible Jesse feels after sending his 14-year-old son back on a plane to Jesse's ex-wife. They joke, laugh and share their thoughts on each other's dilemmas.
The amazing brilliance of this one scene is that is all shot in one take. This long, winding, organic conversation perfectly captures their deeply intimate relationship. The perfectly at easy dynamic between Jesse and Celine is what sells this lengthy scene of two characters sharing a conversation that touches on a myriad of emotions.
Like its predecessors, 'Midnight' lacks a conventional narrative of plot points - much of the film is Jesse and Celine once again walking and talking. The overall story arch, however, follows the escalating revelations Jesse and Celine share or throw at each other as the film progresses. On the surface, 'Midnight' is just a series of conversations, most of which analyze the nature of being in love. But below that surface is an analysis of Jesse and Celine's entire relationship: from its idealized, romantic chance encounter on a train to their fateful reunion in 2004.
'Midnight' also perfectly builds off its previous films. They must live with the choices they made to be together after 'Sunset' and often allude to their romantic meeting in Vienna. It reveals how the Jesse and Celine have changed over the years and how they have fundamentally remained the same at their cores.
'Midnight' is essentially two characters dynamically interacting with each other - a simple, but guaranteed formula for incredible drama. What makes 'Midnight' work is the honestly and chemistry Jesse and Celine have with one another. Their admissions and reactions always seem to come from a natural place - none of the exchanges feel forced, as if to lead the pair toward a pre-determined ending.
If 'Sunrise' was about the magic of truly meeting another person and 'Sunset' is about a lingering love that never dies, then 'Midnight' perfectly captures of the truth of what it actually means to be in a relationship.
Final verdict: This incredibly written, beautifully acted and brilliantly layered masterpiece is one of the best films of 2013.