Some movies I just really don’t expect to fully comprehend at the ripe old age of 20. For example, I don’t really expect to understand the intricacies of love and marriage as portrayed by “This is 40” and “Amour.”
Though both are extremely realistic and vivid, I almost feel like I’m watching a fantasy film because I cannot locate them anywhere within my own personal experiences. The same is true for “Before Midnight,” Richard Linklater’s third entry into what I suppose can be called the “Before” series (comprising of 1995’s “Before Sunset” and 2004’s “Before Sunrise”). I just kind of have to take the word of others that the film once again captures something true about the place of love in the human condition. I get a feeling that in twenty years, something about Linklater’s film will resonate more strongly with me. But for now, I’m left most impacted by the saga’s first entry that explored idealistic notions of love and compatibility.
Though this is the now the third time that they’ve done it, I’m still left reeling by the fact that Linklater, along with co-writers and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, can make long, drawn-out conversations about broad topics into compelling cinema. It’s a bold and daring conceit to expect an audience to sit for nearly two hours and listen to fictional characters broach subjects that they themselves are often too scared to touch. The concept seems like one bound to the stage, but it works yet again on screen.
I found myself fascinated by the philosophical musings of Jesse and Celine once more precisely because they are so vividly portrayed by Hawke and Delpy, respectively. They bring their characters such vitality and authenticity that you can’t help but start to identify with them. They aren’t idealized, caricatured, or allegorical; Jesse and Celine are just people like us.
What’s particularly remarkable about “Before Midnight” is how it functions on both a personal level and a broader scale. These are fully realized people playing out intimate dramas before us on stage, often times enhanced by the way Hawke and Delpy pull from their own biographies to give the fiction an even greater sense of realism. At the same time, however, these are also average people puzzled by the great philosophical quandaries, merely trying to find an answer that works for them.
I don’t want to say too much about what Jesse and Celine discuss in “Before Midnight” because that would spoil the fun of discovery for you. But you should know that even if you are like me, unable to relate directly to many of their mid-life crises and neuroses, there is always something that can be extrapolated and reinterpreted in the context of your own life. That’s only possible, though, because Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy once again have found that sweet spot between the conversations these two particular people are having and the conversations that the rest of the world is having around them. B+ /