Third part of Linklater's long-running saga continues exact, quietly perceptive and profound meditation on the nature of love
Since his breakthough feature Slacker in 1991, writer/director Richard Linklater’s career has been peppered by interesting work (A Scanner Darkly, Me and Orson Welles, Bernie) that, with the exception of his Jack Black vehicle School of Rock, has failed to make much impression on the box office. But within his arthouse fan base, Linklater’s work commands considerable respect, and his greatest achievement is the Before Sunset/Sunrise/Midnight sequence, an unassuming triptych which ranks alongside the greatest cinematic romances.
The backstory is essential here. 1995’s Before Sunrise saw Jesse (Ethan Hawke) enjoy a chance meeting with Celine (Julie Delpy) while on a European vacation; after persuading her to get off the train with him in Vienna, the two spent a dreamy night together before going their separate ways. In 2004’s Before Sunset, the two met up again at a book signing in Paris, and bonded over their shared reminiscence of what might have been, and the very different directions that their lives have taken. In both films, Linklater makes use of unshowy direction and natural improvisation from his leads, who both get co-writing credits, creating a remarkably unforced picture of love kindled and rekindled.
Before Midnight returns to Jesse and Celine’s story nearly two decades after their initial meeting, catching up with the couple on vacation with their twin daughters, with Jesse also traveling back and forward to the US where his son Hank is growing up. Like the previous films, Before Midnight is a leisurely, deliberately slight talkfest as Jesse and Celine adjust their expectations and attempt to recapture their romance, now seen through the prism of parenthood.
A unique cinematic experiment, Linklater’s trilogy of films may not yet constitute the last word about Celine and Jesse’s relationship, but they add up to one of cinema’s most exact, quietly perceptive and deeply profound meditations on the nature of love; pure joy to anyone with a romantic bone in their body.
Limited release from Fri 21 Jun.