R (sexual content, nudity, strong language); 108 min.
The soap opera that is the conflicted, complex relationship between Jesse and Celine continues in director Richard Linklater’s captivating third film on the subject, Before Midnight.
Viewers were introduced to the pair (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) in 1995 in Before Sunrise, when the two met on a train in Vienna and infatuation turned into romance. The leisurely pace of Sunset — full of long, uninterrupted takes and quietly compelling and witty conversation — set the tone for the films to follow, including Before Sunset in 2004.
While Midnight is stylistically similar to its predecessors — writers Linklater, Hawke and Delpy continue to produce some of the smartest dialogue to ever grace a contemporary love story — it’s different in one key aspect: Whereas in the other films, Jesse and Celine’s relationship had to be fleeting because of their life circumstances — in Sunset, for example, Jesse is married to someone else — they are now together and the parents of twin girls.
In their 40s, Jesse and Celine find themselves approaching middle-age malaise as they haul the family over to Greece for what seems to be a much-needed vacation. Jesse is arguing with his ex-wife about their son, Celine is having trouble at work, and the spark seems to have been snuffed out of their relationship.
How they try to rekindle that flame is what drives Midnight, a film that feels so authentic it’s like overhearing a conversation you’re not sure you should be hearing. At this point, Hawke and Delpy know their characters so well, they easily slip into them like a second skin.
Having these films come along every nine years is becoming something to look forward to. Yet if this is the last time Linklater allows us to catch up with these two — it would be a shame if the quality dropped in future installments — then Midnight is a great way to say goodbye.
Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas; AMC NorthPark, Dallas; Angelika Plano; opens June 14 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Cinemark Tinseltown Grapevine, Regal Burleson
— Cary Darling