Before Midnight takes place nine years after the events of Before Sunset and eighteen years after the events of Before Sunrise, continuing the story of Jesse and Celine. When we last saw the two of them, they were listening to Nina Simone’s “Just in Time” and Jesse seemed to be considering leaving his wife to be with Celine in Paris.
At the start of Before Midnight we learn Jesse did indeed divorce his wife and now maintains a relationship with his son, Hank, from their marriage, seeing him twice a year, while he, Jesse, carries out his life as a writer with Celine and their twin daughters, Ella and Nina in Paris, France.
Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are near perfect movies, both individually and as a larger whole. A lot of movies aim to capture the raw, emotional qualities of the human condition, trying to articulate it through either words, physical expression, or both, the pleasures, the pains, the strains, the struggles and the aching love of a human being, usually, in vain. Before Midnight accomplishes this though, doing what several movies never could, other than perhaps its own predecessors, by exploring the human heart, the delicacy of life and the highs and lows of relationships with a kind of aggressive gentleness, a careful navigation of organized thoughts, large ideas, and heartfelt moments that are intensely profound, inspiring, and sometimes tearful.
One of the less prominent but nonetheless just as vital aspects of Before Midnight is its score from composer Graham Reynolds, which is subtle, soft, and lovely all in the right places. It is a distinctive set of music as well as a perfect compliment to the small-scale, somewhat quieter movie that is Before Midnight, a dialogue heavy and quite character driven story. As for Richard Linklater, the film seems almost like a second nature sort of project for the veteran director; there is effortlessness, a smoothness as well as a delicate confidence that fills every last frame, and with pros like Hawke and Delpy as his focus, Linklater ultimately ever only needed to let the pair do what they do best with one another: talk. That the duo has such an incredible screenplay to perform, authored by Hawke, Delpy and Linklater, makes the viewing experience all the more sweeter.
Julie Delpy as Celine and Ethan Hawke as Jesse are thoroughly engaging as a couple, with matchless, durable chemistry, yet they’re also engaging as individuals. They work well on their own, but when they’re united, as Celine and Jesse, they completely enthrall like no other on-screen pair in the last fifty years of motion pictures. Delpy and Hawke’s uncanny ability to change from playing the couple of nine years, struggling to figure their joint path out, to being two concerned parents of twin daughters, to carrying on as if it were the 1990s and they were new to one another’s lives and then go right back to being a devoted couple again.
Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have once more concocted a work of movie magic, showcasing the conversations, trials and the tribulations of two vivid characters in such a special, personal, involving way; it is the sort of sublime and deeply sincere entertainment no amount of special effects, big explosions or gun battles could ever hope to compete with. Before Midnight is a nearly impeccable film and even if you have not seen its predecessors, (you really should see them as soon as possible) you are still bound to get just as swept away by its beautiful candor and love.