Most sequels are born of financial consequence, Hollywood studio calculation/desperation, movie star/producer hubris, or some combination thereof. That’s certainly not the case with Before Midnight, which again, like its predecessor, ranks as one of the more charming, and unlikely, cinematic follow-ups of the modern era.
In 1995’s Before Sunrise, director Richard Linklater cast Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, a pair of young kids who cross paths on a European train and decide to kill 14 hours in Vienna before the former is due to catch a plane back home. He’s American, she’s French, and their cross-cultural, philosophically-tinged, flirty back-and-forth served as a heady cinematic stand-in for all the swollen romantic possibility of young adulthood. With its 2004 follow-up, Before Sunset, Hawke and Delpy expanded on their roles as performers in the original talky tête-à-tête, taking co-writing credits with Linklater in telling the story of a chance encounter some years later in Paris.
Thus, the first two movies in this series — neither of which is an absolute viewing requirement to submit to the charms of this offering — were very much stories where the journey was the point of the ride; they were fun, literate, thought-provoking cynic-romantic measuring sticks about tantalizing roads considered if not fully taken. Much more than its predecessors, then (and necessarily, given its characters’ ages), Before Midnight is a film that unfolds in the shadow of consequences. Life choices have been made, and Jesse and Celine must grapple with all the additional baggage that comes with any accrued wisdom in age. It’s a movie about adult romance that doesn’t pull punches about the difficulties of trying to carve a path through life to walk two-astride in good faith and keenness. For more from a recent discussion with Hawke, Delpy and Linklater about the film, click here to trip on over to ShockYa.