Before Midnight: ****/*****, or 7/10
Third installment in Richard Linklater's Before romance trilogy (for lack of an official name), that began with Before Sunrise (1995) and continued with Before Sunset (2004). We revisit the lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), 18 years after their first all too brief encounter in Vienna and nine years after their second equally short sexual interlude in Paris, that left them with twin girls. Now they meet up again in Greece for vacation as an almost genuine family, which causes long simmering emotions to stir, both for good and for bad. Though they agree their life as a semi-divorced couple (they were never married to begin with) with two adorable but ever attention seeking children leaves a lot to be desired – he has problems dealing with his vicious real ex-wife and connecting to the son he sired on her, while her career is at a crossroads and as a devout feminist, she is bothered by the feeling society wants her to totally give herself to her children instead of being successful – they do still deeply care for one another as is evident when they visit Greek friends where it seems their love life is the most sweepingly romantic of all of them. However, when they are given a luxurious hotel room for one night, their differences and mututal feelings of lack take over, causing quite an argument between them. This film is quite amazing in that it's basically a few scenes of the two protagonists and a few minor characters engaging in endless conversation about ordinary things, yet it's totally compelling due to the completely believable performances, the fast paced, realistic, and often witty and snappy dialogue and the relatibility of it all as these are totally regular folks experiencing everyday problems. An education in minimalist filmmaking, each scene can take up to 20 minutes with no more editing, music or other movie trickery than needed so you can really flow with these characters. The romantic tone of the piece is underscored with a little help from the beautiful small town Greek settings and landscapes, except for the hotel scene – which takes place entirely in an ugly, modern, eerily lit boring white room – which of course is the only location where Jesse's and Celine's relationship turns into bitter strife and mutual reproachment, until they seem to reconcile at an outdoor restaurant a little while later. The neutral zone between man and woman might as well be a battlefield for dominance, Linklater suggests, but if both parties really care for one another and aim for simple understanding, nothing can stand in the way of true love.