Sunday, June 16, 2013
Directed by Richard Linklater and screenplay by Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy, Before Midnight is the third film of the Before series that began with 1995’s Before Sunrise and followed up with 2004’s Before Sunset. In the third film of the trilogy, the film follows another nine years later in which it plays to the lives of Jesse and Celine nine years later after they met again in Paris where both are going through changes in their lives individually and in their life together as Hawke and Delpy reprise their respective roles as Jesse and Celine for this film. The result is a truly gorgeous and riveting film from Richard Linklater.
The story of Jesse and Celine has always been considered one of the finest love stories in cinema where the first film in 1995’s Before Sunrise was about this American guy and a French woman meet in a train to Vienna. Nine years later in Before Sunset, the two would meet again in Paris where the film had this great ending that would play into the fate of these two characters. In this third film of the trilogy, nine years has passed where the consequences of the decisions the two would make in Paris would come to haunt them where there aren’t just these complications in the lives of Jesse and Celine but also big questions about life, aging, and existentialism that comes into play. Particularly as their lives are now more complicated than it ever was where the two share those frustrations about their individual lives as well as their life together.
The film’s screenplay is similar to everything that had been told in the previous films though some of it does take place in real time. Yet, there are moments where Jesse and Celine each have individual moments with other people while it is still about them. The dialogue is very free-flowing where the two not only talk about children and family but also the fact that they’re getting older as well as the possibilities that maybe they haven’t changed. During the course of the entire film, the two talk about their lives where Jesse is dealing with his role as a father to a son he doesn’t see very much anymore as he wants to be there for him even more. For Celine, she’s at a crossroads in her own life where she has always been a woman of ideas and wanting to change the world where she’s been offered a government job that would allow her to do that. Yet, there would be compromises along the way but the big question is what will happen?
Richard Linklater’s direction is very entrancing for the way he presents the film as it’s shot entirely in location at the Greek Peloponnese peninsula where it is this small paradise where everything is peaceful. The direction is filled with some amazing compositions as well as some long takes to capture the intensity of the conversations that is happening. While it’s an approach that is similar in the previous films, what is different is that there are moments of humor as well as dramatic moments. The latter of which go into some dark territory over the conflicts the two face where there are some huge dramatic punches that are unveiled.
Linklater isn’t afraid to take things to dramatic heights where there are moments that are shocking. Even in the third act where things are very intense in the drama as Linklater has the camera place the actors in different positions to show that there’s a possibility that something terrible will happen. Particularly as the language in the dialogue becomes far more confrontational and complex to the point that the two will say things to each other that are shocking. It would add to the emotional weight of the story where Linklater knows that something has to happen as its ending is more about why these two were so interesting to watch and why they’re right for each other no matter how cranky they can be towards one another. Overall, Linklater creates a very realistic yet exhilarating film about love and the choices that people make in their lives.
Cinematographer Christos Voudouris does fantastic work with the film‘s photography to capture the beauty of the Greece with its beaches and gardens for many of its exteriors where it‘s very natural and to the point without the need to over-stylize the shots. Editor Sandra Adair does wonderful work with the editing to create a few montages for scenes at the Greek villa Jesse and Celine are at with some friends while a lot of it is mostly straightforward. Art director Anna Georgiadou does amazing work with the look of the villa they’re in as well as a few places in Greece they’re in.
Costume designer Vasileia Rozana does nice work with the costumes where it‘s mostly casual to complement the look of the country and beaches. Sound editor Tom Hammond does excellent work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the intense moments between Jesse and Celine. The film’s music by Graham Reynolds is divine as it is a mostly plaintive score filled with piano and Greek string instruments that are only played in a few moments to showcase the sense of romance but also uncertainty in the film.
The casting by Christina Akzoti and Alex Kelly is brilliant as it features appearances from Ariane Labed, Walter Lassally, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Yiannis Papadopoulos, Athina Rachel Tsangari, and Panos Koronis as friends of Jesse and Celine at the villa they’re living in. Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is wonderful as Jesse’s son Hank who only appears early in the film as he’s set to return to America while Jennifer and Charlotte Prior are lovely as Hank’s half-twin sisters Ella and Nina.
The performances of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in their respective roles as Jesse and Celine are truly outstanding for the chemistry the two bring as well as the intensity of their performances. Hawke shows a weariness to a man who wants to be closer to his son while going through the motions of trying to come up with another successful book. Delpy displays a woman who is eager to find her place in the world while dealing with some of the things in her life that didn’t go well. Both Hawke and Delpy make Jesse and Celine individuals that are very flawed as well as a couple that have lost their sense of youth and innocence as they’ve become full-fledge adults. Yet, they are moments where neither character paint themselves as very brightly but still exude all of the traits of the difficulties as adults who don’t have everything together and maybe are at a point where they don’t like each other. Their performances in the film is truly acting at its finest.
Before Midnight is a magnificent film from Richard Linklater that features exquisite performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It’s a film that explores the complexities of relationships as well as the decisions two people make with their lives and how they ponder about those decisions. While there are moments in the film that aren’t easy watch due to some of the dramatic weight that is in display. There is still something about these characters that audience have known for nearly 18 years that just makes them so enjoyable to watch through good and bad times. In the end, Before Midnight is a rich yet spectacular film from Richard Linklater.
Richard Linklater Films: It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books - Slacker - Dazed & Confused - Before Sunrise - subUrbia - The Newton Boys - Waking Life - Tape - School of Rock - Before Sunset - Bad News Bears (2005 film) - A Scanner Darkly - Fast Food Nation - Me and Orson Welles - Bernie (2011 film) - Boyhood - Everybody Want Some!! - The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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