beforemidnightDirectors: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Ariane Labed.

Running Time: 109 minutes

Certificate: 15

Extras: Commentary with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater, Revisiting Jesse & Céline, Q&A with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater

BEFORE MIDNIGHT is the third installment in the massively popular and critically acclaimed series of movies that began all of the way back in 1995 with BEFORE SUNRISE. The film helped launch the careers of director Richard Linklater, who found earlier success with debut SLACKERS, Ethan Hawke, who was on a role following superb performances in DEAD POETS SOCIETY and ALIVE, and French actress Julie Delpy, who was known best for her role as Dominique in the ‘Three Colours’ trilogy. The first film in the series revolved around a young man named Jesse, and a woman named Celine who, after meeting on a train, spend a romantic evening together in the city of Vienna. Nine years later in 2004, a follow-up was produced. BEFORE SUNSET, which also saw Delpy and Hawke share screenwriting credits, caught up with the two many years later in Paris, France and another chance meeting after Jesse visits on a book tour. Now, a full nine years later comes BEFORE MIDNIGHT, the action relocating to another part of Europe yet again.

Nine years on from ‘Sunset,’ and we discover that Jesse and Celine are still together, and indeed still living in Paris. The big revelation early on is that they have not one, but two twin children together. That’s in addition to the son that Jesse has from a previous relationship, the one he left to be with Celine at the end of the last movie. This time around we find ourselves on the Greek islands and again both parties are at a crossroads in their lives. Jesse is content with writing books in Paris, though missing his estranged son, and wanting to go back to America, and Celine has the opportunity of a big job in Government, which would keep her in the country. When the couple are offered the chance to have some friends look after the children, they take the opportunity of having a rare night away in a luxury hotel. What follows are the key trademarks of this now-franchise and we’re right at home from scene one in a fifteen minute car journey from the airport to their holiday retreat.

Having heard that they were making another film in this glorious series, my initial instinct was very negative. Why spoil an almost perfect duo of films, and surely after the happy-ever-after ending of the last movie, why go further? Surely it wasn’t because of the money? BEFORE SUNRISE made around $15 million in box-office sales in 2004, and BEFORE SUNSET grossed around $10 million less nine years earlier. Hardly Earth-shattering. The simple reason for the creation of these movies is as simple as the plot itself. Love. It’s clear that the trio at the beating heart of the movie love the characters and the world in which they inhabit. Any fears that the third movie wouldn’t live up to the first two films were blown right away during that lengthy car journey at the start of the picture. This is engrossing, powerful stuff with the viewer embarking on such an amazing journey with these two characters once again.

The action moves along at a great pace,  the conversations shared between the central characters engrossing and as natural as ever, and the acting is as near on perfect as you can get in a movie. Hawke and Delpy know their characters so well and inhabit them so believably that you forget they’re acting and you’re watching a movie at all.

I really cannot recommend this movie enough. Quite simply the best in this marvelous trilogy and quite honestly one of the best of the year.

5-star test BEFORE MIDNIGHT is released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK on Monday 28th October, 2013.