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Release Date: May 24, 2013 (Limited)
Director:  Richard Linklater
MPAA Rating: R

In 1995, the soulful Before Sunrise introduced us to Jesse and Celine.  Two twenty-somethings who have a chance encounter in Vienna.  Knowing they don’t have much time they wander the city together and have a romantic filled evening  It was embraced by a generation as one of the most romantic films ever made.  At the end you are left wondering if these two will ever meet again.  Nine years later in 2004, the sublime Before Sunset reunited Jesse and Celine, now thirty-somethings, this time in France.  Their lives have changed since they were last together but that one night in Vienna has haunted them all those years since.  The film concludes with a fantastic cliffhanger as we are left wondering what will happen next.  Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight picks up Jesse and Celine’s story nine years later while they are on a family vacation in Greece. 

What started as a really sweet romance with a lot of talking, Sunrise, became a powerful conversation that looked at love lost, regret and reconnection, Sunset.  With Midnight we are given a look at sacrifice, regret, growth and one important question.  Can true love really last?   In the first five to ten minutes we get the answer to the question we’ve been wondering about since the end of Sunrise.  We see Jesse at the airport sending his 14 year old son Hank off to the States.  We learn that he’s divorced and living in Europe.  It’s a heartfelt father and son moment.  Soon after as Jesse leaves we see Celine waiting for him by the car and inside are their twin daughters.  Great!  They got together!   This is where the story begins.  During their drive Jesse begins to have issue with having to send his son back home every year and thinks about moving back.  It’s happened before but for Celine it seems different this time.  The idea of moving to the States doesn’t sit well with Celine.  Not wanting to spoil the rich tapestry that will unfold over the next 100 minutes or so it’s best to leave it there.

Before you can even commend the acting or directing, credit must by given to the writing of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  Like Before Sunset the script is nothing but very long, very real, very meaningful conversations.  It is very likely that the core of a conversation was described but the actual dialogue itself may very well have been improvised.  It does feel a bit more structured than Before Sunset which is not to say is a bad thing.  There it felt so natural and free flowing that it looked authentic, it looked real, it sounded like we were just eavesdropping on a conversation between two lost lovers.  In the latest film the ruminations on love, sex, past choices and so forth are very sharp, witty and heartfelt.

Again credit must be given to the Sunrise trio.  Linklater, as before, shoots the film in long unbroken takes where it is nothing but two people talking.  Hawke and Delpy go through pages upon pages of dialogue and it never once feels scripted.   As mentioned before, the story is more structured but the dialogue is still free flowing.  Like Shakespeare it’s often mind numbing wondering how they can say all that without missing a beat or a word and still be acting simultaneously.   Hawke and Delpy slip into these characters with ease and despite the fact that it’s been nine years the chemistry is still there.  They act and feel like a couple with children.  The two really shine when they get into a very heated fight where you wish you could just jump into the scene and tell them to take a breath.   They are very good but they were even better in Before Sunset.  The cast is actually larger in this one as we are introduced to the family of a writer that they are spending their vacation with.  They are all fresh, memorable and well played.

Like Michael Apted’s 7 Up series, it will be interesting to check in on these two in another nine years.  Like before it concludes leaving you wondering what will happen next with these characters especially after the events of this feature.   Before Midnight had the enviable task of following up a classic and while it doesn’t reach those lofty heights it doesn’t disappoint.  This is definitely one of the best films of the year.

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