Richard Linklater manages to keep the magic alive in the third installment to the ‘Before’ trilogy, which follows the love story of Jesse and Celine, who meet on a train to Vienna in 1995 (in Before Sunrise) and spend one night together, agreeing to meet up in six months time. The couple meet again nine years later (2004, Before Sunset) when Jesse is promoting a book that he has written about their first meeting and they realise they still have feelings for one another. In Before Midnight, we catch up with the couple nine years later, now living together in Paris with their daughters.
Holidaying on a Greek island for the summer, the couple find themselves at a juncture in their relationship, with Jesse wanting to move to Chicago to spend more time with his son from his first marriage, and Celine about to take a new job working for the French government. With their future at odds, the couple discusses their life together- will they be together forever?
Like with the other films in the series, the action takes place over a 24-hour period, where we follow the couple as they philosophize about the nature of love and the challenges in making it last. Through dinner they talk about the differences between men and women and while walking through the village they begin to question their future.
What is impressive about the Before trilogy is that it has managed to stick to its indie roots; making a film every nine years that has little action other than the long one-take conversations between the couple that lets us learn more about their bond each time. But the conversations never drag, in fact they are constantly intriguing and poignant as well as very funny.
Like with the previous two films, Linklater wrote Before Midnight with the film’s stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Their utterly natural performances are a dream to watch, having grown out of years of working together. Theirs is one of the most romantic stories in modern film history, and also one of the most realistic. Rarely is a relationship portrayed on screen more relatable or familiar.
The film doesn’t end in a conclusive way, which begs the question if we will meet the couple again in a fourth film. But what Before Midnight does show is the complications that have arisen in the couple’s life. We can only guess what the future may hold for them.