Linklater’s third entry into the ‘Before‘ series takes us from the romantic idealism into a more stark reality. Comparing to the previous two which place you in a dreamlike idealistic state of wandering through Paris or Vienna, Before Midnight looks at the couple in the backdrop of Messenia, Greece traveling through a long-term relationship.
Marking the first time in the series, the film opens with the couple together and using the techniques that embodied the first two – lengthy, talky scenes about existentialism and gender politics. However there is a distinctly more negative tone to this film. Whilst the first two championed the great belief of romantic love and love at first sight, this deals with the ‘happily-ever-after’.
The concept of checking in with these two characters in nine-year increments excites; the company of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s couple has been immensely enjoyable in the past. However, seeing them in their 40s, in a long-term relationship leaves a little flat. This is clearly the desired effect of this installment – after the romantic idealism of the first two, how can the relationship keep its momentum?
Director Richard Linklater has proven his talent once again in taking a backseat to his characters. The shots are deliberately and methodically paced which allows the characters to come to the foreground – you’d leave talking almost solely about the characters rather than the film or the making of it.
On the whole, it’s hard not to judge Before Midnight in the shadow of the previous two – they were romance films with not just a heart but also a brain. The writing is exquisite and has been throughout the series – with Hawke and Delpy taking co-writing duties along with Linklater, as on Before Sunset. Whilst being witty, warm yet strikingly honest Before Midnight is a worthy, if not more sombre, addition to the series.