I was pretty sure I knew exactly what I was getting into watching Before Midnight, but I was wrong. This movie took my expectations and went somewhere completely different and more emotional than I expected it to.
Its hard to talk about this movie without spoiling it, since just setting up the premise is a spoiler really, when you think about the nature of the other two films and their open endings. So even though I am not going to reveal any major spoiler plot points, I can`t really review this film without revealing the tone or the overall background. So if you want to watch this completely fresh, be forewarned.
Before Midnight sees Jesse and Celeste spending their last day in Greece after a summer holiday. They have been together since the last movie and now have twin girls. We also get to see Jesse`s son from his previous marriage, which sets up a lot of the conflict in the story. And that conflict is what sets this movie apart from the previous Before films and is what really threw me off guard. At first the movie was like slipping into a comfortable pair of pants straight out of the dryer. But then it went places I saw coming but still didn’t expect it to really go, or at least not that far.
I am exactly one movie behind the characters in these films. Right now I am Before Sunset age, so there is a chance that I was thrown off guard simply because I`m not at that place in my life. But even so, it was quite jarring to see these two characters we have gotten to know so well at each other`s throats so much. I think that even if I was in that position in my life, I still wouldn’t be able to relate since these characters are unique enough that a fight on this level happens because of their unique personalities and interactions. Still, it was hard to watch.
That being said, this is a great piece of film-making. The writing is magnificent and almost never feels forced, nor does it get boring after really nothing more than conversation after conversation. But that is par for the course in this series. But what has really elevated are the performances of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke who are both at the top of their game, not just independently but more importantly as an in-sync duo.
This is a great film, but where do I place it among the other Before films? Honestly, I may have to say it trails the pack, and this is a personal preference only. When it comes right down to it, Before Sunrise remains my favourite since I connected with that romantic idea of traveling and meeting someone special. Before Midnight on the other hand broke my heart, so while I recognize how successful a film it is to do so, it also left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth after getting to know these characters so well. Still, only great movies can make someone feel those sorts of emotions.