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Charming the Third Time

MOVIE REVIEW
Before Midnight (2013)

Before-midnight-movie-review-ethan-hawke-julie-delpy
Despina Spyrou/Sony Pictures Classics

In “Before Midnight,” Richard Linklater unites us with Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Céline for a third time. The pair’s meet-cute in 1995 on a Vienna-bound train was at the heart of “Before Sunrise.” Their fateful reunion in 2004 Paris was the basis of “Before Sunset.” This time, they are a couple with twin daughters in tow vacationing at a writer’s retreat in Messenia, Greece. The new film proceeds to examine domestic roles, fidelity, mortality and this thing called love.

If “Sunrise” was saccharine and “Sunset” was cosmopolitan, “Midnight” is idyllic. “Sunrise” had a naïve belief in fate and chance encounter, yet it was carefree and realistic enough to not make a life-long commitment out of what was essentially a one-night stand. When “Sunset” came about, Céline’s and Jesse’s future was still full of promise after they each had attained some measure of professional satisfaction. Yet they’d gotten enough mileage out of adulthood to look back and wonder “What if . . . ?” and “What could have been . . . ?” This time around, the rose-colored glasses are off as Céline and Jesse take a sobering look at the hard work and compromises required to make a relationship last. The Greek ruins, once the perfect backdrop for ancient tragedies, now complement the Bergman-esque domestic discord and disillusionment that are about to unfurl.

I saw “Before Sunrise” in Montréal while still in school, “Before Sunset” in Vancouver toward the end of my first period of long-term unemployment, and now “Before Midnight” in New York City while getting my career back on track. I’ve been in and out of love through all this, too; and the stories of Céline and Jesse have truly resonated with me at these very different stages of my life. While “Sunset” wasn’t exactly memorable at the time of its release, the trilogy as a whole has undoubtedly become one of the very definitive portraits of the forgotten Generation X. Hipsters, one day you will understand.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Opens on May 24 in New York and Los Angeles and on June 21 in Britain.

Directed by Richard Linklater; written by Mr. Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy; director of photography, Christos Voudouris; edited by Sandra Adair; music by Graham Reynolds; set design by Anna Georgiadou; produced by Mr. Linklater, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos and Sara Woodhatch; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Ethan Hawke (Jesse), Julie Delpy (Celine), Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Hank), Jennifer Prior (Ella), Charlotte Prior (Nina), Ariane Labed (Anna), Athina Rachel Tsangari (Ariadni) and Xenia Kalogeropoulou (Natalia).

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