Before Midnight (2013)

Gen-X got old. And grumpy.

We followed Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) through their early days in Venice, as they walked around aimlessly and fell in love overnight, only to never see each other ever again. That is, until 9 years later when Jesse releases a book about his one and only night with Celine, she finds him, they talk, and the fireworks between the two begin to spark-up once again. However, we left wondering whether or not Jesse was going to take the bait and stay in Paris with Celine. 9 years later, we catch back-up with them to see how they are doing, whether they are together, and if they still love each other like they once did. The answers may surprise the hell out of you.

I’m going to come right out and say this that not only was Before Midnight my most-anticipated of the summer or the year, but was also my most-anticipated movie to see in general. After seeing Before Sunset and realizing that we never quite knew whether or not Jesse and Celine made it work after all of these years, I was finally happy to know that everybody was back for another gig. But, at the same time, I was also scared because these characters feel like family now, and if not family; then pretty damn close. I could only wish that my family was this attractive and pretentious.

They fell in love right in front of our eyes back in ’95 with Before Sunrise and allowed us to give into the whole cliche about finding that special someone, on a train, and spending the whole night with that person, falling in love, and sightseeing. Then, reality set in and they realized that maybe it was just a fantasy they were living.

Or was it?

Fast-forward 9 years later with Before Sunset, and these two are back together in action with Celine finding Jesse at a book-shop. They both chat it up like usual, but the problem is that Jesse not only has to be back on a plane in an hour, but also has to take that plane back to his wife and kid. However, just when you thought all hopes and dreams were lost for these two love-birds, the movie leaves us the burning-question in our mind: does Jesse stay with Celine and finally live out that fantasy he always dreamed of, or does he go back to the real world, with real problems, like staying loyal to his wife, paying bills, driving the kid back-and-forth from school, and so on and so forth?

"And then we started talking about the after-life and where we wanted our lives to go once we became cosmos in the sky, and then, that's when I knew: he was THE ONE."
“And then we started talking about the after-life and where we wanted our lives to go once we became cosmos in the sky, and then, that’s when I knew: he was THE ONE.”

Well, if you got this far in the review and have yet to see the movie, I’d advise you to turn away because this review is almost impossible to go on without saying anything at all about what happens, how it happens, or who it happens to. I don’t want to say that this is all a spoiler review, but I’m sorry friends and family; I just can’t hold back if I’m going to get as emotional and dramatic as I am about to in a couple of paragraphs. If you want any clarification on whether or not to see this movie, just look at the bottom rating, and be on your way.

Okay, good? Anybody here that’s not supposed to be? Crystal! Let’s go!

Let me just put it down like this: this is the best movie of the year for me. I don’t know if it’s going to stay on top for the rest of ’13 or what, but what I do know is that right now, at this moment in time, this movie is the best movie of the year because it is everything I ever wanted from this series, and more. Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have been teasing our brains out of our mind for the longest time about how we might get to see Jesse and Celine back in action, and we finally have it! But it’s weird, because it isn’t like you’d expect them to be.

Jesse and Celine are, yes: old. They are married, they have kids, they are vacationing in Greece, Jesse is still a writer, and Celine is coming at a crossroads at her life finding the job she wants, and the job that would be right for her. They still talk with the same fireworks and charm that had them fall in love with one another in the first-place, but something is different. Something is not right. See, they love each other no matter what and definitely seem to appreciate the fact that they are in one another’s life, but everything they didn’t want to be, fantasized about not being, and would joke with one another about; is actually happening to them both. They do bicker; they don’t always get along; they don’t see eye-to-eye; they don’t talk about cool things like the world, human-beings, or the weather; and they sure as hell don’t seem so lax like they once were when they were young and ambitious.

Nowadays, Jesse and Celine are older, more mature, and more understandable about the world that they have come to hit face-to-face, and the people that surround them. Hell, they know more about themselves than ever, and that scares them half to death. Never, not even in a million years did they ever think that they were going to be old, cranky, rushed, and confused about what to do next in life, but hell; it happened and they have to live with it. However, that still means they love the hell out of each other like before, right?

Well, that’s where the slope gets a bit slippery. It’s obvious that these two still appreciate each other’s company and lending-hands whenever they need it, but it’s not like it once was and that’s where this movie really hits the nail on the head. Even after all of these years, Celine still questions Jesse as to whether or not he thinks he made the right choice staying with her in Paris, or even if she made the right choice getting off of the train with him in Venice. They don’t question it because they regret it, they don’t fully understand where their lives have gone, what they can do to stop time, and whether or not it’s too late. They both fear what’s to come next, but most of all: they fear losing the love of the other. This is where things with this movie really begin to get brutal and it is the most compelling thing I have seen all year.

Like the last two movies, the script here is beautifully-layered down to the last line. Every word of dialogue, every gesture, every idea that the other shares with the other, makes you feel some sort of emotion rather it be happy, sad, scared, or indifferent. No matter what, you will feel something with this movie, and the emotion is only heightened if you love these characters like I do. They aren’t terrible people and they aren’t great people; they are human-beings. They love, they fight, they laugh, they smile, they sleep, they eat, they drink, they clap, they dance, and they do everything that you or I are capable of, which is so rare not only to see in movies nowadays, but to see still be present in a movie that’s already in it’s third entry. Yep, it’s been a long, long time since those wonder days in Venice, and it shows.

The realistic-factor behind these characters, who they are, and what makes them who they are, is only made better by the natural performances from Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke who give the best performances of their careers, by far. Both can play these characters in their sleep by now, which is nowhere near a bad thing since characters that are as layered and as complex as these ones, need to feel as if they were played by people who weren’t really told to act and emote. They have to be played as if they are real people you could meet on the street and strike up a conversation with, and that is exactly what these two do. Whether they are together or separate in this movie; Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are perfection. However, when they are together, the movie shines and never stops.

"Remember this? Remember what we did after? Wanna do it again? Please? Pretty please? Come on, dammit!!!"
“Remember when we last did this? Remember what we did after? Wanna do it again? Please? Pretty please? Come on, dammit!!!”

All three movies have been anchoring on the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke, and this is the one movie where it really matters because there’s so much more going on between these characters, that you need something natural and realistic to really make it work. As I’ve said before, Jesse and Celine still do love one another, but there are problems between the two that seem like ones that most married-couples/adults face, especially at their time and age. They wonder whether they made the right choice or not, or if all of the dreams they once had when they were little tikes, are all but gone. So, rather than facing it head-on and realizing what they have to do, they turn to each other for love, help, and support, and that usually ends in happiness or disaster.

Sadly, it’s more of the latter than the former for these two.

Once again, I can’t stress enough how much these two still do love one another, but there does come a point where you begin to question whether or not it was all real, or a total charade that they stick with because they can. And what’s best of all about this certain in the movie is that it practically comes out of nowhere. By the end of the movie, Jesse and Celine have finally gotten the chance to be with one another, all alone, and ready to do the dirty, but before they can finally get the clothes off and the fluids flowing; it all comes to a screeching halt. Almost seemingly out of nowhere, the married-couple that you thought were the perfect soul-mates for one another and could never be broken-up, somehow actually do start to come unglued as they fight about everything in their life.

This whole sequence they just yell at and fight with one another probably lasts a good 30-40 minutes, but it’s the most compelling and most emotionally-rich sequence in film that I have seen at all this year, and hell; probably the last 5 or 6 years at that. Not a single thing is left out between these two as they get into whether they should move to Chicago so that Jesse can be closer to his son; or if they should get new jobs; or if they made the right choice getting married in the first place; or if the other philandered around; or, last but not least, if they should just call it quits before all is said and done and they have nowhere to go with the rest of their lives. Anything and everything you’d expect these two to argue about, is not left unsaid, but at the same time; not resolved either.

Like with most things in life, people fight, people yell, and people hurt one another, but they apologize, continue on, and act as if nothing happened, but does that mean nothing really happened? For me, it felt like this movie really hit the nail on the head about how Jesse and Celine, no matter how grand their love is for one another, they will always be that married-couple that fights from time-to-time, can’t figure out who’s doing what for the kids, and gets angry at the other for stupid shit like not cleaning up after themselves and so on and so forth. But this can’t be the Jesse and Celine from ’95 and ’04, can it?!?!?! Well, it is and it shows you that no matter what you try, no matter how different you think you are, and no matter what walk of life you take, you will always end up at the spot you didn’t expect to be in: just like everybody else.

I know, I know, I know! I make this movie sound like a total piece of depression from beginning-to-end, but honestly; it isn’t. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me happy, it made me think, it made me feel all warm and gooey inside, and it made me sad. However, I can’t say that this movie is worth watching if you expect Jesse and Celine to be all happy with birds chirping and flying all-around them. That isn’t what real life is all about, and that’s certainly not what these two are all about and that’s where this movie goes. It may take some by surprise that the once-adored couple-to-be, is now, all of a sudden, any other married-couple of their generation (aka, the type of people they talked out against in the first and second movie), but with the way these characters have been formed and developed over these three flicks: it feels deserved and all too real to be perceived as a fantasy. Jesse and Celine make you wonder where your life may go, if you decide to take a step for love, and whether it will, or it won’t be the right step you took at the end of your life.

"Wow, you're still funny like I once remember you being. You were funny, right?"
“Wow, you’re still funny like I once remember you being. You were funny, right?”

Without spoiling it all, the movie ends perfectly. After their big, slap-out, drag-out fight of wits and emotion, Jesse and Celine seem to really come together, apologize, make jokes, and talk about what they are going to do later that night (aka, bang). It all seems so happy and hokey for a series that’s the exact-opposite in terms of how it’s first two movies ended and how, but once you get to thinking of it: it really isn’t. By this point in time, Celine has already told Jesse that she does not love him anymore. Not once, but twice, and she does not stutter or take back what she said. Now, does that mean she just said it out of pure-emotion and anger just to really hit Jesse where it hurts? Maybe, but does that mean there isn’t some truth or realistic-feeling to that statement? Maybe, as well.

Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke really seemed to have made this movie their adored, and wonderfully-watched child, but the ending is what makes you think what these two have to say about these characters and whether or not they will be able to stand the test of time like they mentioned in all movies, especially this one. In the end, the final-shot is of these two jokingly-chatting about how they can’t wait for the night so that they can have sex, love, and be passionate with one another, as if they haven’t in the longest time, but not all is fine and dandy. These two just yelled, screamed, hollered, bewildered, insulted, hurt, and tortured the other in a fight that seemed to not only go on forever, but get meaner and meaner as more words and actions were exchanged. Has the damage already been done, or, as I alluded to earlier before; will they forget about it, move on with their life and days, and act as if it never happened?

Is what the REAL Jesse and Celine are all about, or is that what we expect to come with most married-couples in our world? The movie allows for you to have that question linger in your mind, long after the final credit rolls off the screen, and I have yet to think of what it is myself. All I know, is that if they do decide to do a fourth film, count me in, baby! Just let me in advance so I can bring an extra-bag of Kleenex along for the ride.

Consensus: If you loved the first two movies, Before Midnight will be the next step in Jesse and Celine’s trip you definitely want to be apart of, even if everything they’ve been through and are still going through, may not put a smile on your face like it once did before. However, that’s life, and it’s not always going to be a fun-filled ride of happiness and pixies.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!!

Not even holding hands anymore. Yup, love blows.
Not even holding hands anymore. Yup, love dies. Goodnight folks!


  1. Damn, that’s the highest score I’ve seen you give in ages! I haven’t seen the first two movies but I’ms tarting to feel like I should. Nice review 🙂

  2. I’m a huge fan of the first two movies. Does Jesse have to keep reminding Celine that he still loves her? Does she believe she is worthy of his love? It does make sense of their fighting if you think about it. They never really got a chance to date each other like normal people, let alone have a long distance relationship to get to know each other emotionally. They both got to know each other for less then 48 hours within 18 years. That’s hardly enough time to really know someone. So when they married, in a way it was their dating years to get to know each other even though they we’re married. Regardless, I still plan to see this movie. I believe they are soulmates, they just need to chill out and compliment each other a bit more. I don’t know. Some couples fight like old crows, but remain married. Great review buddy!

  3. So jealous of the fact you got to see this. I”m looking everywhere to find it myself, as Before Sunrise and Sunset are two of my all time favorite movies. Great review, Dan. Good job.

  4. Have not seen it yet, so I’m going to skip reading your review, but the score says enough. Like you it is probably also my most anticipated movie of the year. It will be released next week Thursday (although the biggest chain still hasn’t said which cinemas it will play) and I will be going, no matter where it’s playing. Already informed my wife she’ll be home alone with the kids that night and I rewatched Before Sunset on Monday to get in the mood. Really excited to see it!

  5. Nice review. I haven’t seen the first two movies but I’m excited to watch this one, especially since it’s received near universal praise.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are my two all-time favorite movies and this was easily my most anticipated film of the year. Despite the difficulties that come with watching these two people we’ve come to know and love trade verbal low blows for a good thirty minutes, this is easily the most enjoyable experience I’ve had going to the movies thus far. Best film of 2013.

    • Without a doubt. It’s a movie that will keep you asking and guessing about your own life, and whether or not you live quite like Jesse and Celine, or if you live at all.

  7. I was going to see this at the Tribeca Film Festival but ended up missing it. I’m bummed, it sounds great! Awesome review Dan!

  8. Good review.

    Like you this is my favorite film of the year, and my favorite of the series. It is also the funniest. When Jesse and Celine go at it I laughed because it was funny, and it was funny because it was true. Edwin & I both identified with each character during that scene because we both have been them. I’ve been Jesse trying to end the argument quickly, saying I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Edwin’s been Celine coming back and bringing the subject up again.

    I loved this film.

  9. Wow really in depth and thoughtful review. You write a book 🙂 I mean that in a good way. Glad you gave this one a 9.5 because it definitely deserved it. Over all looks like you are a pretty tough critic, I find that interesting and look forward to reading more of your reviews in the future.

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