Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Before Midnight

Love is a hard emotion to convey on film. Sure there are hundreds of romantic comedies released a year, and sure there are plenty of hard hitting emotional love films out there, but real love and the roller coaster of emotions that come with it- both good and bad- is nearly impossible to squeeze into a two-hour film.

-This review contains heavy spoilers for the two previous films in the series-

Back in 1994 director Richard Linklater changed that with his film Before Sunrise, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply. The film depicted the blossoming relationship of Jesse and Céline who meet on a train in Vienna. The film managed to perfectly encapsulate that feeling of meeting someone you know you have a connection with, and did it so wonderfully well. The film ended with Jesse and Céline vowing to meet up at the same train station a year later. It left the ball in the viewer’s court as to whether they would actually find each other again.

The sequel, Before Sunset, took place 9 years later, and shows us that while Jesse did return to their meeting spot a year later, Céline did not due to a death in the family. However, they meet in Paris once again during one of Jesse's book tours; which is actually for a book that he wrote based on his time with Céline. If its predecessor was about falling in love, then Before Sunset was about rekindling that love, a love that neither of them forgot. Again, the film ends vaguely with Jesse deciding on whether to go home to his wife, or stay with Céline.

Before Midnight is set 9 years later once again, and we find Jesse and Céline as a couple with twins, though not married. This begins with Jesse bringing his son from his previous marriage to the airport after spending the summer with him. This need for Jesse to be a part of his son’s life, and to live in America with him is the focus of the film, and the catalyst for much of the drama that follows.

Jesse and Céline live with their daughters in Paris, but the film, which nears the end of summer, is set amid a backdrop of stunningly beautiful Greece. If Before Sunrise was about falling in love, and Before Sunset was about rekindling that love, then Before Midnight is undoubtedly about the growth of that love, and the fact that it's not always going to be smooth sailing. It's moving, funny, powerful and masterfully done.

Much like the two films that came before it, without the tremendous performances of Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply, Before Midnight just wouldn't work. There's such a wonderful chemistry here, that it's one of those few films that feels utterly real, which as a viewer absolutely pulls you in. The chemistry between them is incredibly important, as apart from the fact that we must believe they're in love, most of the film is merely them talking and interacting.

This is where Before Midnight shines, in those simple moments of them strolling down a beach in Greece, talking about what's on their minds. In this instalment though there is more tension between the two, and this comes through during their conversations, which ultimately leads to their, probably first, big fight. It's to the bone, unrelenting and on both sides, completely justified. From start to finish, Before Midnight is absolutely masterfully done, and it's long takes of one-on-one dialogue between characters is such a breath of fresh air.

With these three films Linklater, Hawke and Deply are giving us an insight to the growth of a relationship in front of our eyes, and not just a simple snapshot. This isn't a romantic comedy in which the good-looking guy realises the bookworm is cute when she takes off she glasses and lets down her hair. No. This is about real people with emotions, history, baggage, hopes, dreams and their love for one another, even if it's not always rosy. If you're looking for a film that will rope you in, be sure to check out Before Midnight. However, make sure you watch the first two films. Without them as background, much of Before Midnight will be lost on you.

Before Midnight makes me believe in love again with a near perfect 9/10.

Denis Murphy

Before Midnight at CeX

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