"Well, first of all, you don't light a ticking bomb."
What does it take to fall in love? To later clash with common sense and then fight to stay together? Good fortune and later hard work I suppose. BEFORE MIDNIGHT continues the trials of Jesse and Céline first told in BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET. The first two chronicles are outstanding and the third continues their flawless tradition. There is no luck involved, however.
What's great about this series is that all three films have a distinct feel. They all of course revolve around the two central leads, having them mostly talk about their lives and thoughts, but each has its own voice. MIDNIGHT is by far the most abrasive. As relationships go on, guards are let down. The naiveté has vanished. Those in long-term trysts can relate. Perhaps you take one another for granted. You stop trying to impress, relying more on the actions and mileage of the past, looking for any excuse for contention.
Jesse and Céline feel this way. They've been together consistently now for nine-years, this after a nine-year absence. That smooth sheen has worn away. Their lives are filled with the necessary ingredients, but rough patches emerge, it's inevitable. A lot has happened since Céline was sashaying seductively to Nina Simone in her Paris apartment. Not surprisingly, Jesse remained after that second chance encounter, leaving behind his son, and his wife who he fell out of love with. The two paramours now share adorable twin daughters.
We catch up with them near the end of the summer. Jesse is dropping his son Hank off at the nearby airport in southern Greece. There's a consistent apprehension felt by that fateful decision. Céline sympathizes but when the idea of moving back to the States is even floated, tensions immediately rise. It's a sore spot throughout. This contrasts the joy that comes from hearing the two of them recollect past memories that connect us back to the two preceding films.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy return once more, and there's a genuine love between the two, that much is easy to see. And the words they use, these wonderful words. It's the series greatest strength. A simple conversation between friends at the dinner table is riveting. It's the delivery that truly cements it. The way they cut each other off mid sentence, or the playful banter. Even the way their eyes react while the other speaks. I could go on. It's easy to place yourself in their shoes because this is my life, this is your life. Hawke and Delpy once again share screenwriting credits with director, Richard Linklater. It's a harmonious accompaniment.
It was revealed a few months ago that the entire series was based on a real life encounter that Linklater experienced in his late-twenties. While visiting his sister in Philadelphia, he struck up a conversation with Amy Lehrhaupt while the two were in a toy store. As the two cinematic leads did while in Vienna, Linklater and Lehrhaupt spent the night walking around the city, talking about everything and nothing. The two eventually lost touch, but their fleeting hours together were enough for Linklater to develop a film filled with the same type of memories he himself encountered. Unbeknownst to him, Lehrhaupt would pass away tragically, the victim of a motorcycle wreck, mere months prior to SUNRISE's release. Touchingly, MIDNIGHT is dedicated to Lehrhaupt, a largely unknown name scrolls through the credits, the ultimate inspiration to a wonderful, ongoing narrative.
I wonder if Linklater himself knew what he had back in 1995. SUNRISE is a film that's so small in stature, and one that's so quiet, that it really is a marvel that it's simplicity could lead into something so profound. And it's dynamism has only grown over the years. The format hasn't changed. They've found a perfect formula and it continues with flawless beauty. MIDNIGHT is essentially four scenes of people talking, but if you've seen it, and the two films that preceded it, you know it's much more than that.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. There's comfort in that simple phrase. Linklater has returned to his commonplace, filled with personalities he's inherently connected to. Jesse and Céline are older (but maybe not wiser), their locale has once more shifted, but their reoccurrence is the most welcomed of the year. Notice I said comfort, and not comfortable. Love is hard. There will be fights, and tears, and things you wish you could take back. But it's authentic. I don't trust people that don't argue. BEFORE MIDNIGHT is straightforward; all the bullshit is cut out (though, truthfully, it was never there to begin with). It's real, and it's absolutely perfect.