Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years from Before Sunrise, when Ethan Hawke coaxed Julie Delpy off a train in Vienna, through their Paris reunion in Before Sunset, to the shattering Before Midnight. In a rapidly proliferating universe of Amazing Super-Spider-Iron Men, this unexpected three-decade trilogy from Hawke, Delpy, and Richard Linklater is a happy accident. The first two acts of Midnight are lushly photographed, with familiar—and still astonishing!—long takes of reflective dialogue. For the first time, we see our main couple interact with friends over dinner, while vacationing in Greece. Then comes the third act: where Jesse and Celine voice their long-simmering doubts and disappointments in a shifting struggle of one-upmanship. It’s hard not to feel protective; when does the script stop and the actor’s life take over? Hawke has grown from his puppy-dog nineties days. His Jesse hasn’t quite figured out adulthood yet, and wrestles with his obligations to wife, ex-wife, both sets of kids. The real discovery of these movies has been Delpy. She cuts through her outer self, so whimsical and beautiful, to reveal deep wells of sadness and resentment. Even weeks after seeing it, I’m struck by her face in the last scene, so changed from her appearance on a train eighteen years ago. Before Midnight is the most essential chapter in the series, an antidote to romances that promise “happily” and forget everything else after.

For Your ConsiderationBest Picture; Director (Richard Linklater); Julie Delpy; Screenplay (Linklater, Hawke, Delpy); Cinematography (Christos Voudouris). 

Before Midnight poster - 2

The evolution of Ethan Hawke’s hair.

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