Those familiar with the 18 year courtship between Celine and Jesse, first explored in "Before Sunrise," will find the latest chapter in their lives emotionally and intellectually pleasing.
"Before Midnight" stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, teaming back up with director Richard Linklater. The film takes place nine years after the last installment and finds the couple in Greece on a summer vacation with their twin girls.
True to its source material, the film is dialogue heavy. In the first twenty minutes, we have only gone through two scenes, one of which we are not even certain if the two lead characters are still together. Linklater shoots his scenes in a minimal staging style, very reminiscent of theater. The conversations between Celine and Jesse, as well as the inhabitants of the Greek island they have been staying at reveals the maturity this relationship has progressed to, as well as the immaturity and stasis in which we find them.
Jesse is still successful in his novels but Celine is at a crossroads in her career. The opening scene between Jesse and his son Hank juxtaposes the relationship that Jesse and Celine have with their twins, who are hardly seen throughout the film.
When Jesse and Celine are forced to face a night together in a hotel room that was arranged for them by another couple, Linklater and Co. venture into gritty relationship territory some might not be comfortable exploring. Yet, it's through this exploration that we realize why we've loved Jesse and Celine over the years. They are human. It is through their faults that we love them more, that we root for them to forgive each other and end up together.
Of course, "Before Midnight" isn't for everyone. There is no action in the film and and its narrative structure is even smaller. However, it remains one of the few movies of 2013 that defines the times we live in and our growth as a culture, or our collapse in communication.
Delpy, Hawke and Linklater share screenwriting credit and imbed stories through the narrative that is hardly seen in movies nowadays, which focus more on action than dialogue.
Ms. Delpy's performance is raw and magnificent. When, at times, it becomes difficult to take Celine's side, Ms. Delpy reminds us how much women endure and put up with silently in relationships. Mr. Hawke is assured in his performance and his spontaneous and assured demeanor play beautifully off of Ms. Delpy.
Though not a "battle of the sexes" film, the stories and themes explored venture into the opposing gender territory. It's an interesting way to go because, though we are constantly being riddled with information about how men are one way and women are another, neither Celine or Jesse fit into any such compartment. They are complex and difficult. Now, 18 years later, they still love each other, maybe even more, for knowing how difficult the other is.