Before Midnight

Directed By: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

Unlike Hollywood movies, it's very rare that an indie film gets a sequel.  With the exception of some sick horror films, this just doesn't happen too often.  You won't see Midnight in Paris Deux, 1000 Days of Summer, or Moonrise Kingdom 2.  Even when they generate big profits, they're not coming back to theaters again.  The exception to this rule is the Before series from Richard Linklater.  First, there was Before Sunrise.  Nine years later, there was Before Sunset.  Now, another nine years later, we have Before Midnight.

Nine years after Before Sunset, Jesse and Celine Wallace (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) are married and have twin daughters.  For the last six weeks, Jesse's son Henry has spent the summer with them in the Peloponnesian Islands in Greece.  Now, he must return home to his mother in Chicago to go back to school and get back into the swing of things.  With Jesse and the rest of his family living in Paris, he feels guilty about sending his son to live with an abusive, alcoholic mother, but he has no choice.  Despite the fact that he wants to play a greater role in Henry’s life, these are the terms dictated by the courts given that he lives in Paris.  This guilt eats Jesse alive and opens up a rift in his marriage to Celine.  Ultimately, the longtime lovers begin quarreling about the possibility of moving back to the United States.

Like its predecessors, Before Midnight primarily consists of dialogue between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they drive in their car, walk through beautiful Greek landscapes, or try to make tender love in a hotel room.  Despite the fact that they're now in their forties, that romantic spark is still there.  Julie Delpy brings an effervescent bubbly energy to the screen at times and a fanatical disillusionment with love and life at others.  Playing off her perfectly, Ethan Hawke gives us a grounded comedic dose of reality.  Both are lovable in their own ways.  With long shots and bare-bones scenery, the minimalist approach from director Richard Linklater works once again because of the incredible chemistry between his two stars. 

With eighteen years now between Before Sunrise and Before Midnight, Linklater wholeheartedly embraces the progression and growth of his characters.  Instead of trying to craft a sweet romantic drama, he opts to get a little rough and broach the more serious topics of love and life as they age — lingering familial issues from a previous marriage, the permanence of love over a lifetime, and even the death of one's spouse.  While he covers some genuinely heavy stuff, he doesn't forget to include nuggets of humor along the way.  That's what makes this film so great.  It offers substantive discourse with loads of laughs, a winning combination.

Before Midnight is a strong addition to the Before trilogy.  Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy just keep getting better and better with time.  That being said, I'm curious to see what they concoct nine years from now when they're in their fifties and having mid-life crises.  That should definitely be entertaining.  Before Midnight gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with his one.