Sundance Review: Before Midnight Is Perfect

By Katey Rich 2013-01-21 01:12:30discussion comments
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In Before Midnight, Richard Linklater once again teams up with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy to give us a slice in the lives of Celine and Jesse, who we meet 9 years after the events of Before Sunset, as they are in Greece andů

Wait, you don't actually want to know what happens next, right? It seems that most fans of what's now the "Before" trilogy don't, and given the delicious cliffhanger that ended Before Sunset, it seems wrong to let the many wonderful surprises of Before Midnight go revealed here. It once again revolves around a series of conversations between Celine and Jesse. It does not take place in real time. It is set on a beautiful island in Greece. Oh, and it's perfect.

That's a strong word to use, especially in a heady festival environment like this one, where a crowd's excitement can sweep you irrevocably away. But if you thought the first two films in this series were perfect, as I did, Before Midnight will line up right alongside them, yet another beautiful and evocative and thoughtful and funny moment in time between two people who, by now, feel as familiar as our own friends. Before Sunrise is still the template, with its long take walk-and-talk conversations and constant digressions, but the dynamic between them has only become more poignant over time. It is impossible to watch these two walk down a cobblestoned street without seeing them younger and falling in love in Vienna; the entirety of Before Midnight carries that lump-in-the-throat nostalgia of looking at an old photograph of yourself and wondering how on earth so much time has passed.

But as it turns out, Celine and Jesse can also still surprise us, and reuniting with them here makes each character richer and more fascinating, as character traits that were endearing at 23 seem manic at 41, and as concerns that wouldn't have crossed their minds at 23 suddenly consume them. It is fairly miraculous how Linklater, Hawke and Delpy manage to write these conversations that feel so natural but informative about these characters, so spontaneous but consistently interesting. There's even more upfront talk about the nature of relationships and how time can change them, and even some ribbing meta conversations about how stuff like that can seem too pretentious. The crazy ambition behind these movies has always been paired with a wry self-awareness, and that may have only increased as Jesse and Celine have reached middle age, far too old for the starry-eyed romance of the first time around, but a little sad to see those days gone, too.

Maybe it would be a worthwhile experiment to revisit any given set of film characters every nine years, but there's certainly something special about these two, and Before Midnight might make you greedy-- nobody's promised another movie in nine years, but we all want it, and how are we even supposed to wait that long to meet these two again?

Odds are you won't have to wait much longer to meet them for this go-round-- Before Midnight doesn't yet have distribution, but it's definitely on its way there quickly. I won't talk to you much more about it until then. Hopefully you'll be as surprised and delighted and moved as I was.
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