Before Midnight is the third in Richard Linklater’s intermittent catch-ups with Jesse and Celine, characters played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who the filmmaker first introduced in 1995’s Before Sunrise.
It’s now nine years since Before Sunset, and Jesse and Celine are now living together in Greece with their twin daughters. Whereas the previous instalments inhabited a kind of storybook romance, where Jesse and Celine met first in Vienna and then Paris to declare undying love and embark on serious discussions, this third film finds them struggling to deal with real-world obligations: jobs, family. “I miss hearing you think,” Jesse tells Celine.
The opportunity for rich, digressive conversations presents itself at an outdoor dinner party held by an elderly British writer (a lovely cameo from British New Wave cinematographer, Walter Lassally). Then it’s pretty much into the walking-and-talking strategy of the previous films, with Jesse and Celine walking in long, single-take shots through the Greek countryside. He is sensitive, poetic; she is wry, intellectual.
But Before Midnight digs deeper than its predecessors as Linklater ask what happens to the romantic ideals of youth when confronted with the realities of every day life. Tensions between the emotionally fatigued Jesse and Celine finally explode in a painful but brilliantly paced show down in a hotel room. A wonderful, if draining film.