Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy
Stars: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
It’s nine years later and we see two pairs of legs walking: one a man and another a boy. It is Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and his son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). Jesse is walking Hank through the airport to security. It is the last day of their summer vacation together in Greece before Hank goes home to the States with his mother. Jesse is nervous, fidgety, and sad; Hank is a teenage boy. After a thoughtful farewell between the two, Jesse looks on as Hank goes through security and then disappears around a corner.
Next we see Jesse outside walking to his parked car, Celine standing beside it on the phone. They both enter the car and we discover they have young twin daughters asleep in the back as Jesse drives away and Celine remains on the phone. A short time later Celine hangs-up and begins talking to Jesse. At last the familiar world we have been waiting for returns, but we already know something is different.
They two are on their last day of a six-week vacation before they head back home to Paris the following morning. The family arrives at a villa belonging to another writer Patrick (Walter Lassally), who invited them and others over for a holiday. Over a late lunch we discover the other guests: Patrick the older host with a contemporary platonic female friend; another couple similar in age to Jesse & Celine; and a younger couple who are like what Jesse & Celine were like when they first met. After conversations of love, loss, and the meaning of relationships between all the guests, Jesse & Celine make a long walk to a hotel in the village for a night alone while their twins stay in the villa.
During this long walk and stay at the hotel we learn where Jesse & Celine are in their relationship and in their lives. They have thoughts of what might have been, regrets about decisions made, seeing where they are in life, and wondering how they got there.
Hawke and Delpy as Jesse and Celine continue to have the natural chemistry they have always had with each other. They are a couple that have always connected as two people, and now have been together for nine years and know each other thoroughly. But as all couples know that still love each other and have been together for years know, staying together takes work. And Jesse & Celine have to work.
The strength of the film is how brutally honest it is. That complete honesty makes the film totally funny. This is by far the funniest of the Before films. But its humor is laced with melancholy. We laugh because what Jesse & Celine say is funny because it is true. There is a great identifiably to their circumstance. Any couple that has been together for ten years knows where they are coming from. We have been them.
The laugh-out-loud humor of the thirty minute hotel room scene is funny because I have lived that scene: sometimes as Jesse and sometimes as Celine. But as all those who have lived that scene know, a line can be crossed where it stops being funny and someone gets hurt. The strength of any relationship, and the strength of the love that is the foundation of that relationship is based on how we come back from that line.
Before Midnight shows us true life with real people who love each other. It reminds us love takes work and life does not make it easy. It also reminds us that if you are willing to accept the good with the bad, then love will find a way.
Grade = A