Before Midnight (2013) (R)

For the third and (hopefully) final chapter in the "Before" series, Richard Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who helped with the script as they did in "Before Sunset"), have added some realism that detracts from the fairy-tale-like method of the first two films.
"Before Sunrise" is the falling in love film, it creates a beautiful scenario that fills the viewer with romance and happy thoughts. Then came "Before Sunset" which proved that life cannot always be predicted and (ironically) stated that relationships don't work out like they do in the movies.
Now, with "Before Midnight", the trio add twice as much weight to a straining romance in the hopes of showing a glimpse into reality...and it works remarkably well.
Jesse and Céline are now together and the couple has twin girls. Jesse has divorced his wife and the movie opens to him saying goodbye to his son. The family was vacationing in Greece for the summer, now Jesse's son has to fly back to America to be with his mother before school starts.
It's been nine years since the last movie...a lot has happened. Then again, it was nine years between that movie and its the time feels natural. "Before Midnight" drops us in the relationship, right at the moment the time bomb starts to tick.
Events throughout the day, that usually all are verbal, lead to a extremely hostile climax leaving the viewer asking if "Before Midnight" is titled as so because it reflect the midnight hour of Jesse and Céline's romance and (more importantly) friendship.
First of all, the script is beyond critique. Linklater has a way of writing that makes it feel like you're eavesdropping on a private conversation. It feels tangible and natural. More so than Woody Allen's dialogue, Linklater makes you believe that you're listening to an actual conversation.
As they drive back from the airport for the gorgeous home they are staying at, Jesse and Céline stumble across the topic of movie. Jesse thinks that it would be better for him to move to the States to be with his son; but that would entail a massive shift for the family and Céline is unwilling to make that change.
It comes up in passing, but the impact a little sentence has, shifts the entire movie's feeling.
To be fair, "Before Sunrise" and Before Sunset" didn't have quite the realistic feeling that "Before Midnight" has...but they didn't need to. The first two movies are about the stupor you find yourself in when you meet the one you love and "Before Midnight" is about the years following.
Every person has their quirks, so it's natural that you will get on your loved one's nerves eventually. Céline and Jesse are such strong characters that you know when they clash, it will be spectacular.
As with the first two films, "Before Midnight" has a sense of foreboding that's impossible to define. It's the kind of film that's completely intoxicating while being slightly painful to see.
The film doesn't rid itself completely of the fairy-tale feeling—several comments direct us to think that age has turned our characters bitter—but the magic is still present.
"Before Midnight" seeks to show the true nature of love and it might not be a completely pleasant thing to see.
Malick's "To the Wonder" sought out what love was..."Before Midnight" attempts to define it—you decide which is more pretentious.
The acting is just superb, but I felt like some scenes were forced. It's hard to make such a drastic switch from the previous movie and still feel genuine.
Linklater still uses the impressive long shots, the actors' commitment to the film is evident in these scenes. It's stunning to look at, the camera brilliantly captures the magnificent landscape.
"Before Midnight" might have bitten off more than it could chew, but that doesn't keep it from bringing closure to one of the best series and helping us understand a little more about true love.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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