Before Midnight dir. Richard Linklater (2013)
“Going…” Celine says. And a moment later: “Going….”
She and Jesse sit watching the orange Sun fall into the hills of the southern Greek Peloponnese.
“Going…” she says, and then: “Gone.”
In many ways, where Before Sunrise (1995) was concerned with beginnings and with possibilities, and where Before Sunset (2004) was interested in interruption and continuation, this third film in Linklater, Delpy, & Hawke’s series deals with endings. So much of the film’s wonderful dialogue - which again flows naturally and musically back and forth both in communal conversations and the prolonged two-party scenes that are the films’ hallmark - is given over to topics around absence, lessening, and loss. That isn’t to say that Before Midnight (2013) is a tonally bleak piece of cinema: a rich vein of humour runs throughout it, and the characters’ warmth of personality, their likability and the vitality of their relationships one to another is too engaging and heartening a spectacle for this to be a downbeat film.
There is some darkness here, including a real-seeming threat to a relationship that we as an audience have built a genuine attachment to. The three main creative parties - and all say that this is now an enterprise born equally of three minds - do not shy from examining the flaws in the characters’ relationship. The evolution from starry-eyed naifs engaged in the idyllic night-long walk that forms the basis of one of modern cinema’s most memorable romantic films, to the stressed working parents of twin girls is deftly and believably handled. We still find ourselves as invested in Celine and Jesse’s lives, still interested in what they think and say, and how they feel about each other. To base one film primarily around a conversation between two people is impressive; to sustain the same conversation over three films and 18 years is a remarkable artistic achievement. As with Updike’s series of Rabbit novels there is something powerfully compelling about seeing characters we know age alongside us. We now have a triptych of portraits of these two: brilliantly drawn and evolving. May we meet again.