Before Midnight (2013), the third chapter in the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), finds the lovers together in Europe, raising daughters of their own, and still talking about love and art and desires and compromises. We’re on vacation in Greece and the two are hoping to rekindle a little of their cooling passion, but amidst the tumbling conversations over the dinner table or on a walk through the little town in late evening light are recriminations and accusations that bubble up to the surface.
Hawke and Delpy once again collaborate on the screenplay with director Richard Linklater and all three of them check their youthful idealism at the door to explore fortysomething lives without vanity. With careers and kids and sacrifices made for a life together, the stakes are measurably higher here than in the first two films, and their personalities more dug in. They play off of stereotypes (he’s the free-spirited author more interested in philosophical musings than practical problems and uses boyish humor to deflect, she’s exasperated by his clowning and the frustrated at being forced to responsible play the adult in their conversations, which makes her appear shrill) that aren’t incorrect so much as incomplete, but keep slipping back into those roles when their issues rise to the surface.
That makes it sound like a bitchfest, but what makes this chapter more discomforting (and more profound) is not the accuracy but honesty of their bottled-up resentment, while the lilting rhythms of their conversations and digressions and Linklater’s gently graceful direction draws us in with an intimacy that is alternately seductive and uncomfortable and, finally, authentic.
Features commentary by director Richard Linklater and stars / co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, a Q&A session with all three conducted by Elvis Mitchell, and the featurette “Revisiting Jesse & Celine,” plus an UltraViolet digital copy.