The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Before Midnight | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Before Midnight

Third installment of Linklater's chronicle of a transatlantic couple.

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

At the end of a summer holiday in Greece, Jesse (Hawke) sends his teenage son, Hank, back to Chicago, where he lives with his mother, Jesse's ex-wife. Jesse has been living in Paris with Celine (Delpy), since their reunion nine years ago, and the couple are now parents to twin six-year-old girls. The family has spent the past six weeks on a Greek island, the guests of an aging writer who admires Jesse, now an accomplished novelist. When Jesse and Celine spend the last night of their stay alone in a hotel room, the tensions of their relationship come to boiling point.
Countless TV shows have thrived on the old plot staple of "Will the protagonists hook up?", and countless TV shows have collapsed as soon as their creators give in to audience demands and answer this question. You see, in drama, questions are romantic. The question mark itself, with its Botticelli curves, is a beautiful piece of calligraphy; unlike the full stop, with its blunt blandness. In real-life we need questions to be answered. How do we cure cancer? How can we achieve world peace? Why does bread never fit fully into the toaster? Answers, you see, are for scientists. Artists should only concern themselves with questions.
With 1995's 'Before Sunrise', Linklater left us with the question "Will Jesse and Celine regret leaving each other?". Nine years later, with 'Before Sunset', we pondered whether the two would stay together this time. Now, 18 years on from the first installment, Linklater gives audiences the answer they craved, but it's one he never should have revealed. We're asked to believe Jesse and Celine have spent the past nine years together but the dialogue on show is far from the patter of such a familiar couple. Instead, it feels like they haven't spoken since their 2004 encounter. Nine years together and they choose today to discuss a bunch of childhood anecdotes and intimate revelations? We know this couple love to talk, (that's all they've been doing for three movies), so how can we believe they've kept a lid on their thoughts for close to a decade? Celine now comes across as the sort of whiny person you wouldn't tolerate for nine minutes, let alone years, while Jesse has become an emasculated wimp. Separation seems the best option for all concerned.
Linklater's film is set on the day when the strain of a relationship comes to the fore. A more natural and nuanced film-maker, an Altman or a Malick, would have set their film on the previous day. Linklater should have allowed the sun to set on these characters.

Eric Hillis