Filmmaker Richard Linklater is often associated with highly visual films, but he is also adept at low budget, stripped-down talky stories like 'Slacker' and his 'Before Sunrise' 'Before Sunset' movies. You can add another to that list as he revisits past success with 'Before Midnight.'
The story begins with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) bidding his son adieu as he sends the teen on a plan back to his mother in America. Jesse's son was visiting him and his wife Celine (Julie Delpy) in Greece for the summer. His inability to be there for his son all of the time has Jesse questioning whether he is a good father. He and Celine have daughters of their own, but all is not well with the couple. Celine is considering taking a job with the French government that would go against many of her beliefs while Jesse has career dissatisfaction of his own.
The couple is spending time with friends in Greece who have rented a hotel room for the two of them so they can spend romantic time alone. On this particular night, years of personal and career resentment comes to a head as Jesse and Celine air out their thoughts on what they sacrificed by settling into marriage.
Will their relationship survive under such close scrutiny?
Just like the previous entries, this is dominated by long conversations. A multi-person mealtime discussion is the obvious centerpiece of the first half while a hotel-room spat takes up most of the second half. There are some transition scenes and locations throughout, but they merely carry the story along.
The will-they/won't-they debate of the two previous films is far behind as these characters have clearly ended up together. In real life, marriage isn't the end of anything except the pursuit of romance. If anything, it is the start of a new chapter which is what this feels like. Whereas the first two stories were constant states of discovery between the characters, this picks up after the initial romance has been replaced by comfort. The characters are still in love, but they have other priorities in their lives along with each other. If you want a breezy love affair, you’ve got the wrong story.
It’s a shame that we get less of a tour of the story’s surroundings this time around. We stay focused on the characters which are really the priorities, but the first two stories were also a bit like tours of the respective cities. We only seem to see a few landmarks here.
Director Richard Linklater wrote this with Hawke and Delpy. Everyone’s hands-on approach contributes to the strength of the material as it feels like more than just characters’ voices. It feels like the cast are saying the lines because they embody the characters so fully. Since dialog is the backbone of this story, the movie would have collapsed if it wasn't so strong.
Special features includes: commentary, revisiting the characters, a Q and A with the cast, a trailer and a look at the soundtrack.
If you have been on board for the first two installments, you will be well-prepared for this chapter. No one should be starting here. C’mon.
As such, it is a decidedly less romantic, more complicated installment that tackles some of the realities of being an adult in love. It's not all roses, folks.
At the current rate, an entry every decade for the rest of Hawke and Delpy's lives might not be an impossible idea or even a bad one if the quality remains this high.
Rated R 109 minutes 2013