Let's first get two things out of the way. If you've seen BEFORE SUNRISE and/or BEFORE SUNSET and disliked them...there is no reason to give BEFORE MIDNIGHT a try. And if you haven't seen those movies at all, I HIGHLY recommend you do prior to checking out Richard Linklater's latest near classic.
I should also warn that even the most cursory mention of plot points in either the 2ndor the 3rdmovie can be construed as spoilers...but it's tough to talk about the 3rdfilm without giving away some surprise. I'll balance as best I can.
In BEFORE SUNRISE, young American Jesse (Ethan Hawke), age about 23 meets young Frenchwoman Celine (Julie Delpy), age about 23. They are on a train bound for Vienna. Jesse is flying back to the US from Vienna the morning after the train arrives. Celine is on her way back to Paris after visiting family in Budapest. They strike up a conversation and clearly hit it off right away. Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him and spend the night wandering Vienna before he has to leave Europe. The movie follows their ambling through Vienna and just lets them talk. And talk. And talk. And fall in love. For the right viewer, this was a nearly magical film that beautiful captured, through long, semi-improvised takes, the joy of two people getting to know each other and come to appreciate and even love each other. We felt like we were right there with them, and the two stars gave terrific performances. At the end, they agree they will meet again in 6 months, and we're left to wonder what happened to them.
BEFORE SUNSET tells us (spoilers coming up). It's nine years later, and Jesse is in Paris speaking about his new book, which is clearly a retelling of that night in Vienna. Celine seeks him out and we quickly discover they did NOT meet (I won't spoil why). Jesse has just an hour before he needs to leave for the airport, and he and Celine pick up their easy conversation and share about their lives, including the regrets and unhappinesses they've had. It's clear they are meant to be together...their affection blooms almost immediately. New to the equation are some minor quarrels (why didn't you come? If only you hadn't..., etc.). But in the end, Jesse is deciding to miss his flight so he can delight in being in Celine's apartment, drinking tea, listening to her sing. The final scene of the movie is one of heartbreaking simplicity and yet such complex emotion.
Now, another 9 years later, the two are each around 41 years old. SPOILERS AHEAD. They have been together since that time in Paris. They've had a sometimes rocky road, and this movie is more talking...this time in lovely Greece. They have kids. They aren't "new" to each other anymore as they were in the first 2 films. They are now capable of getting on each other's nerves. They haven't always just made each other happy. And near the end of the film, they engage in what I can only describe as the most brutal husband and wife argument since George and Martha got into it in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. There's no violence, but it's a rough scene. Raw and searing. Funny. Truthful. Utterly gripping.
In real life, were I to spend much time with either of these two...I think I'd seriously dislike them. They are self-centered, pretentiously "artsy" and VERY vocal. I don't think I'd want to sit and listen to them talk all day. But this is a film, and Linklater and his stars (who have co-writing credit) can take us to just the right moments. The conversations (and snatches of conversation) that tell us all we need to know about the last nine years. It's an amazing film. It's illuminating and full of so many truths. They may not always be truths I can personally relate to...but they feel true and possible and real. After the film, you talk about Jesse and Celine as though they were real people. More than just about any other movie ever, I think. Their dialogue is so specific and so revealing. Yes, these folks are more articulate than any "real" people...but we don't really want to see normal, sloppy conversation. It's enjoyable to spend some time with these folks (although, again, I wouldn't like them in "real life") because they react to each other so believably. Their words mirror their actions and their expressions. Delpy and Hawke (who I'm not normally a huge fan of) have chemistry that's astonishing...you really feel you're peeking in on something you aren't meant to see and hear.
All three films include gorgeous scenery, and BEFORE MIDNIGHT is the most gorgeous of all. The Greek countryside and seaside is lovely, and Linklater just lets his camera take it in casually. Jesse & Celine comment on it sometimes, but mostly it just flows over us. And the film is mostly a series of very long takes (the scene near the opening when they are driving from the airport back to the house they're staying at is at least 15 minutes long, and seen entirely through a front windshield...but it NEVER feels static). These films are made with such deceptive simplicity.
I acknowledge that these films could also be insufferable to watch. My wife and I rewatched the first two just before going to this latest release, and BEFORE SUNRISE feels a smidge pretentious now. I think that has more to do with the fact that I'm also 18 years older. I have less patience for the naiveté of "young love" than I used to. But that also brought home to me that a perfectly legitimate reaction to these films could be boredom or loathing of the characters. But I consider myself lucky to be swept away by all three films...and in my opinion, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is best of the bunch. It's gorgeous to look at. It's richer in themes and content. It features the biggest acting challenges and the most blistering dialogue. It's hopeful (as all the films are), but the hope is the hardest fought and hardest won here. I highly recommend all three films for ADULT viewers...not just because they contain some profane language, but because I can't imagine a child or teen really understanding what these two are blathering on about (or caring). But if you're adult and you've been in love (or are in love) and have any inkling of the complications of being an adult in our world...this film should resonate resoundingly.
When we last saw Jessie and Celine now already nine years ago, Jessie looked as if he was about to miss his flight back to the US and instead choosing to stay with Celine in Paris. And now we get the third installment of this fanastic mini-franchise.
As "Before Midnight" (2013 release; 109 min.) opens, we see Jessie (played by Ethan Hawke) dropping off his 13 yr. old son Hank at the Kalamata airport in the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. From their conversation we learn that Hank spent the summer with Jessie and Celine on vacation in Greece. As Jessie gets to his car to drive off, we see Celine (played by Julie Delpy) and... their 7 yr. old twin daughters Ella and Nina! So yes indeed, Celine and Jessie became a couple, living in Paris, and now the parents of 2 girls. The remainder of the movie plays out that rest of the afternoon and evening, and to tell you much more of the 'plot' would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: first and foremost, this is another tour-de-force for director Richard Linklater and co-stars/co-writers Hawke and Delpy. The strenght of the movie is in its story-telling and character development. Keep in mind, there are really only 4 scenes in the movie: the drop-off and drive back from the airport, the evening dinner, the walk to the hotel, and the hotel room, that's it. Second, the two main characters' development is going into opposite directions: Jessie was not all that likeable in the first movie (for me anyway) but Celine was just darling. In the second movie, it was pretty much even keel. In "Before Midnight", Jessie has become the likeable character by far, whereas Celine comes across as resentful, bitter at times, and not very likeable far too often. At one point, in the middle of a heated argument, Celine hisses at Jessie "you're no Henry Miller at any level!", revealing an ugly side of Celine that we had never seen before. As we see these characters getting older, it's now also clear that they are struggling with guilt and remorse, and insecurity over their parenting skills as well.
Bottom line: "Before Midnight" is a fantastic conversation-driven movie, inviting you to observe what's become (and still becoming) of Jessie and Celine, both as persons and as a couple. Here's hoping that we can give rendez-vous in 2022 for the next installment in the "Before" franchise. Meanwhile, "Before Midnight" is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
on September 9, 2013
A couple meets on a train and spends a life-changing night in Vienna. They part ways. Nine years later, they meet again in Paris, where they reconnect and wonder what life would be like if they hadn't gone on their own paths. And now, nine more years have gone by as we meet them again, married with children.
In most movies, this would be the definition of `happily ever after'. Sure, 'Before Midnight' could easily have turned into a soapy tearjerker in the wrong hands, but under the helm of Linklater, Delpy and Hawke, it turns into something that is rarely witnessed in cinema: A movie that has love at its very core, but at the same time, is almost anti-romantic. At the very least, it challenges most people's notion of what 'romantic' is.
This couple is real and their issues are real. Their staying together for a decade and having had kids has taken a toll on them. The movie, unlike `Before Sunrise' or `Sunset', is no longer about a random encounter in a beautiful European city. It is about sharing a life together, and the difficulty to accept people for what they really are. It is about intimacy (or lack thereof), guilt and things left unsaid. It is about a love that does not do "happily ever after". It is about "and now, what?"
And precisely because of that, it is human. Its humanity lies in reflecting the flaws and the heartbreak that is so close to anyone who's ever had a fully committed relationship permeated by love. And coming to terms with how each single person relates to this overpowering force of nature is one of the biggest challenges a couple can face. With `Midnight', these immense characters, that almost carry a larger-than-life weight on their shoulders, have reached a brand new level of depth that makes this entry, perhaps, the best in the series.
At the end of the film, I heard a woman whisper to her male companion, "but where is the love?". Well, I definitely saw love - rough and complex and beautiful. I did feel like handing her a copy of "A walk to remember", though. If you're looking for a fairy tale, you are in for a perfect disappointment. But if you are looking for an immensely enriching walk that is both exhilarating and heart-breaking, look no further. Meet, once again, Jesse and Celine.
on February 23, 2014
Even though i'm the type that would typically choose a Van Damme kickfest over a Parisian chick flick, I actually saw Before Sunrise when it was released in theaters. I've been an Ethan Hawke fan since Explorers, and so I was willing to give the movie a try. I ended up really enjoying it. I'd give it a 9.5/10 and It's probably one of my top ten favorite films.
Before Sunset was a not entirely necessary sequel, but it did bring the first film full circle and answered the questions most of us who saw the first film were dying to have answered. It was certainly enjoyable and the ending was very satisfying, Although overall i don't believe it was as memorable or as powerful as the first film. I'd give it an 8/10.
Before Midnight really ruins the fairy tale story built up by the first two films and consists of Jesse and Celine mostly arguing. The first half starts out interesting and feels like the previous two films, but there are hints of arguing and negativity in the first half that then blow up in the second half and turn the last 45 minutes into nothing but arguing. Yes, i get that it is "real" and that most marriages have rough patches, and given the circumstances that have led them to somehow survive as a couple it is inevitable that they will feel regret over some of the compromises each has had to make in somehow making their lives together work. I understand, I get it. But ultimately I ask: Was this enjoyable to watch on film? No. It was tedious to sit through and it made me depressed and angry that the story of Before Sunrise turned into this. The thought that those two interesting people whose souls fatefully crossed paths on that train and had a life-altering experience over the course of a single night as strangers in a foreign city wind up in just as crappy of a marriage as many typical suburbanites burns me up inside. Their story deserves better than that.
I'm new to the whole `Before...' trilogy. I understand that I'm probably the one in a million who hadn't seen any of the parts, but it is a truth I can't hide from. Back in 2004, when the internet was abuzz of talk over `Before Sunset' and critics were raving Julie Delpy's performance and the Oscars were nominating its screenplay I was under a rock. Well, to be completely honest, I wasn't under a rock as much as I was too lazy to want to watch `Before Sunrise' and there was no way I was going to watch a sequel without watching the first film. So this year I finally buckled. With all the critical praise for `Before Midnight' I knew that I was going to eventually HAVE to see this movie, and so I Netflix'd `Before Sunrise' and `Before Sunset' and had myself a `Before...' marathon. Yes, I got up early this morning and watched the first two films and then got in my car and sat in a theater and indulged in the conclusion to this romantic trifecta (or is it?).
In all honesty, I'm still semi-processing the whole thing, but I really don't think one can talk about one film, especially `Before Midnight', without at least addressing the others. The films are so interconnected despite being about so many varying themes and subjects. Quite honestly, other than the two main characters these films don't really speak the same language and yet they feel so interconnected.
What I think is so great about this series is that, experienced as I did today (back to back to back), the films play out like a complete relationship. You have the initial meeting in 1994 on a train through Europe. These two people, Jesse and Celine, meet rather spontaneously, share a meaningful `chat' and then decide to spend an entire day and night roaming Vienna and getting to know one another. Then you have their chance `re-encounter' ten years later in 2004. Much like the infamous `Love Story' (better known by its 1957 remake, `An Affair to Remember') one of these lovers missed their six month rendezvous, which caused them to be separated for ten years before they are reunited when Jesse is on a book tour through Europe and happens to stop over in France, where Celine is from. In the latest film you have this pair, now nine years into a serious relationship complete with twin girls and Jesse's son from his previous relationship. The glowing romance is stripped away and the reality of love and life has set in. In the beautiful way in which Linklater and company have shot these films, we get to see these snapshots of a relationship in such a full and complete way, and while separately some work stronger than others, together they create a beautiful whole.
They take you from fairytale love affair to realistic adventure to tragic reality, all parts of which contrast and complement in ways unexpected.
I don't know if this speaks to the cynic in me, but I feel as though `Before Midnight' truly stands out as the most impressive of the trilogy. It felt the most honest and earthy, and while `Before Sunset' certainly felt more organic and natural, there is something emotionally stirring about `Before Midnight' that I just can't shake. It is the only film in the trilogy that reduced me to tears (several times) and since I'm one who reacts more favorably to having my emotions played with, it is only natural that this conclusion be the film I appreciate the most.
More so than any of the others, `Before Midnight' feels very mature. With `Before Sunrise' it felt like an indie variation of the classic romantic comedy. It used big words and long sentences and political, sexual and controversial subtext to set it apart and make it `relevant' and yet recycled clichéd themes and situations in order to remain part of that world. It felt very fairytale like, which is something I enjoyed and yet also felt somewhat disconnected to. `Before Sunset' moved us forward somewhat with a more honest interpretation of this kindled love, and taking these characters from the initial meeting to only their second time together (yet with so much extra worldly baggage on their shoulders) it made their connection feel more secure, more rooted and honest. Their verbal exchanges, while equally as long, diverse and weighted, felt easier to digest and felt more comfortable on their tongues. They were older, wiser and more trustworthy. But, with this third outing, Linklater takes us out of the fairytale and into the real world. He draws from a darker place and gives us a real look at a fractured relationship and plays to the idea that NO relationship is free from complication. Whereas the first two films romanticized the whole experience (even the disagreements were charming), `Before Midnight' confronts us with a more savage underlining of subtext.
I was not expecting this at all, but it was a welcome surprise.
Some may baulk at this assessment, but for me this was Linkater at his most Bergmanesque. It was reminiscent of what Woody Allen attempted to do with films like `Husbands and Wives' or `Interiors' and yet this actually feels more connected to Bergman's world than either or those films. I kept calling to mind `Scenes from a Marriage', which is one of my favorite films of all time. The conversational quality of the whole exercise is so enthralling; one can't help but be completely swept up in it all. What makes this film so efficient and so affecting is that is couples the same ease of language and chemistry that was honed and perfected over the course of the series and adds that needed edge of tension that makes this film feel more enlightened, more important.
Both Jesse and Celine are flawed individuals. Unlike Allen's `Husbands and Wives', this never felt like a one-sided conversation. Even moments where it could be perceived as such (especially when Celine becomes overly agitated and defensive) are diffused by the nature of the film. This is a mere conversation; a heated one, but a conversation and so the natural recoil of affection and plunge in defensiveness is expected. The way these two circle the subject of their relationship is so effortless.
Yes, if one were to try and point a finger than the dinner table scene which featured a scenario straight out of `Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married' felt a tad forced and obvious and could have been stripped from the film itself, and yet it all felt so natural given the moment in the film. It felt like part of a whole, but still I was glad to see it end.
This trilogy works best when its sole focus in on the two leads. They play off of one another so beautifully that one can't stop looking at them. While I was initially put off by Hawke in the first film, he completely won me over in `Before Sunset', and while he is extremely effective in `Before Midnight', it is Julie Delpy who completely owns this particular film. Her progression of character and ease of performance are a rarity in cinema and something to marvel over.
So, as a whole I must say that I really like this trilogy. I don't love it, although these are films that I really MUST watch again and I have a feeling that over time I'll become more and more effected by them as separate entities (since right now I'm having a hard time viewing them on their own and not as part of a larger whole), and then again they are films that I could easily begin to pick apart and criticize. I think that the singular nature of the film itself lends itself to that kind of reaction. By confining your focus to singular conversations, you are leaving yourself open to varying opinions on those conversations and viewpoints and thus you are going to stir passion, either for or against your film. I could listen to these films all day long, and in fact I'm almost tempted to keep `Before Sunrise' and `Before Sunset' on loop while I'm at work this week just to soak in every word.
As a whole, I'd rate this trilogy an A-, mostly on the strength of the final chapter. Individually (and this fluctuates by the minute), I'd give `Before Sunrise' a B-, `Before Sunset' a B+ and `Before Midnight' an A, verging on an A+, but I'm hesitant to call this a masterpiece just yet.
on October 28, 2013
From the very first of the "Before..." movies, the "action", such as exists, takes off when The Conversation takes off, which in the first two is when they start walking about. In this installment, the movie is almost half over before they really get talking. Of course, a lot has changed: They're middle aged, divorced, and remarried (to each other) and have twin girls. They have commitments. They have baggage. Still, when the conversation finally takes off, it very quickly becomes a bicker fest.
She starts it off with a simple question: Would you still ask me to get off the train with you? One could imagine he's hearing that at almost every anniversary and probably does away with it by smiling, saying "Of course", adding a bit of flattery, and perhaps a kiss. For what ever reason, this time he hesitates, and then he stammers, and now she feels old and fat. To make matters worse, he's just said good bye to the son he lost via his own divorce; now a teenager, he's just finished a summer in Greece, and wow, far from being the adorable talking pet little kids are, he's almost human. You can converse with him, most of the time. And Dad wants more. Unfortunately, he wants it all, the best of his old life, and his new French family. Needless to say, the wife isn't at all amused at his suggestion they uproot and move to Chicago, the proximity of the spurned wife hardly being the least of the attractions. So off they go on their squabble.
As film arguments go, this is not a notable fight. One thinks of the nastiness of "Long Days Journey Into Night", or the epic booze filled brawl between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe", where two puffy actors, beyond their physical prime, go at it, round and round, until the climax where, in a white rage of hate and bitterness, not a single drop of self loathing and maliciousness is wasted. One can no more imagine this couple trying to carry off a fight on that scale any more than we can imagine Maggie Smith lofting "Un Bel Di", or any other aria. But still, if you're going to fight, fight, don't bicker. What we end up with is a couple caught on a bad day, and not a particularly notable one at that.
Ah well. If you've already seen the other two you'll have to see this one. The first in the trilogy is still the best, and who knows, in fifteen years or so, perhaps they'll find each other when their ties have loosened and their baggage has fallen away, and in nascent old age, realize that there's still something there. We're not there yet, but I could sit through that one too. So, while it's not as good as the first time, what is? We wouldn't be so fat if we stopped at the first, and best, bite of chocolate.
on October 26, 2013
Real life. Being human. Being hopeful and lost, and craving for something beyond it all.
This is what this movie is all about.
There are some reviews here that qualify the movie as boring. Boring is going to the shopping mall: it is more than boring - it is dehumanizing. To a point that one won't even sense the beauty of being human and having an imperfect life.
For all of us living boring and imperfect lives - witness this one. Please.
on November 14, 2013
I like the honest progression of the characters as they age. If for no other reason, I find it refreshing that neither actor has undergone plastic surgery or obvious cosmetic procedures to preserve that eternal "I am twenty," look that seems necessary in Hollywood.
The writing is good. The dialogue is honest.
on December 31, 2013
It seems hard to believe but it's been 19 years since director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy brought out a surprising hit romantic film with BEFORE SUNRISE. That movie captured audiences slowly and became not only a great date film but a movie that showed two young people who meet on a train, spend time together and fall in love, even if only for one night. Ten years later they followed that up with BEFORE SUNSET and had Hawke's character Jesse, a successful writer who wrote about that evening, meeting up with Delpy's Celine once again. Both movies left an open ending with people unsure of what happened next. BEFORE MIDNIGHT answers some of those questions and leaves new ones by the end of the film.
It is now 9 years since the last film and Jesse has left behind his wife and family to be with Celine. The pair have two children of their own, twin girls who are the light of their lives. The film opens with them about to end a vacation in Greece and Jesse taking his son Hank to the airport to fly home. His wife has custody and as they part, Jesse begins to dwell on his responsibility to his son and feeling how he hasn't been there for him. As he and Celine drive back to where they are staying, the home of another author they were invited to, they discuss their lives; what each one wants, Celine's possibly taking a job in Paris, Jesse feeling that he should be nearer Hank and what they both want from life.
In a nutshell all things stem from those questions. The second segment has them at the friend's house over dinner where different couples relate their own views of love and relationships. From there it moves on to a walk that Celine and Jesse take through town. The last act ends up with them in a hotel room their friends have presented to them as a gift, a chance to get away from the crowd and the kids for a nice romantic evening. Oddly enough things never seem to turn out as planned.
What could sound like a boring film is actually quite entertaining and interesting. There is no action and no extended scenes of lovemaking. Instead the art of conversation is seen from beginning to end. The fact that these actors could play through these scenes seamlessly is a credit to their abilities. From the conversation in the car to the round table discussion over dinner, every actor does an amazing job. The culmination of the relationship between Jesse and Celine at the hotel room is stunning to watch and as accurate a depiction of real life and romance as one will see in a film.
It is obvious that both characters are in love with one another but the selfish side for each comes out at the worst possible moments and leads to one misunderstanding after another. Anyone in a long term relationship knows that wrong things are said, meanings are misunderstood and that love fluctuates from infatuation to anger in the blink of an eye. All of that is represented in this film as the pair tries to find the love they shared through the years. While we might all dream of storybook/fairy tale romance, the reality is always much different but also much deeper.
I watched this film at the end of the night, tired and fearful that I might fall asleep not due to the film but because of the hour. Instead I found myself captured by the tale of Jesse and Celine, wanting to find out their solutions if any were found and hoping that their love would come through in the end. Sorry but you'll have to watch yourself to find out the answer to that one. It will be well worth your time.
on January 23, 2014
I love to read so I love all the dialogue in this trilogy. I like the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke. This particular movie was difficult for me to watch because it's so real and quite painful but that's my problem. Lots of people have negative comments about Celine's character during the fight scenes. Her behavior during the fight didn't bother me so much because people can say and do crazy things in anger. However I was bothered twice by her character when they weren't fighting. I was shocked right at the beginning when she was waiting for Jesse to say good bye to his son and she knew it would be emotional for him and he comes out of the airport and there is no compassion for him whatsoever. She's on her cellphone rattling about. I was thinking the previous Celine was more empathic and compassionate. And then when Jesse tells her that his grandmother has just died, you find out that Celine never met his grandmother in all that time. And she makes it clear that she doesn't want to go to the funeral with him. I thought that was a bit sad.This was all well before the fight and I guess that's when I realized this film wasn't going to be like the first two. However, I suppose it's about time for a movie like this compared to all the fairy tales out there that mess with your head about real life. If they keep making sequels I will keep watching them.