Talk Therapy -or- The End of ‘Before’ (Film Review: “Before Midnight”)


Cinema’s celebrated triptych on Modern Love, the final installment in the ‘Before’ series finds the chatty Celine and Jesse still sparring it out, but the conversation – like the lovers themselves – has matured, with so much more at stake as they find themselves at a somber mid-life crossroads.



SnapShot Plot

The long-awaited final installment of the Before trilogy, 2013’s Before Midnight, finally joined Netflix’s streaming library a few months ago. This is the culmination of a decades-long storyline that began with Jesse, the brash young American and Celine, the headstrong but sensitive French girl who he meets on a European train in 1994.

The simple plot in Before Sunrise begins on that train and over one memorable night roaming the streets of Vienna, sharing the kind of lyrical, youth-infused passion (for their futures and for each other) that can only exist among strangers in a strange land. The next morning, rather than exchange personal information, they make a similarly romantic pact to meet up, same time-same place, in six months.

Jump ahead nine years and Before Sunset shows Celine, now living in Paris, who learns of Jesse’s appearance there to promote his lauded debut novel, a story seemingly based on their own star-crossed encounter years before. She surprises him, and the two embark on the same kind of intense and winding conversation that re-fuels their original desire for each other.  However their lives are more complicated now, as Jesse is married with a young son, and the volatile Celine has become cynical about love and relationships, while her work as an environmental activist too is a lesson in frustration. The movie ends as the pair realize their attraction to each other cannot be denied and when we bid them adieu, their future together (though fraught with adult baggage) seems like a real possibility.

Now jump ahead nine more years to Before Midnight. Jesse and Celine are about to wind up an idyllic summer vacation in Greece with their young twin daughters, after putting Jesse’s adolescent son, Hank on a flight back home to return to his mother in Chicago. They have been the houseguests of a venerated older author who’s taken Jesse under his wing, and the atmosphere at the seaside villa is sublime, complete with an assortment of articulate and semi bohemian-minded intellectual friends. In one long but scintillating conversation about the nature of love, sex, commitment and growing old, we see the disparity between generations, countries and cultures, as well as the exhilaration to be found in lively dinner conversation set against a splendid backdrop. But we also see the ripples of tension beneath the surface in Celine (more vocally) and Jesse (more passive aggressively). In her case the disconnect between her feminist ideals and who she sees herself as having become, and in his case the sacrifices to his role as a father in light of the abandonment of his marriage and subsequent move to Paris to have a new life with Celine. Later that day, the conversation goes from scintillating to excruciating, as the couple arrives at a juncture of no holds barred honesty in the examination of their entire life together. Will it all collapse on that fateful last night in Greece?



Parting Shot

The director, Richard Linklater (once again sharing the writing credits with his stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) may be credited with making the definitive thinking person’s love story, as the life-spanning Before trilogy delivers what is perhaps the most cerebral approach to love, romance and relationships that have ever hit the big screen. All this talking is not for everyone, however. But if you jump on the ride, you quickly see that for these two articulate individuals, the talking is everything.

Before Midnight is presently streaming on Netflix.

As this is the end of such a celebrated story which has truly spanned the decades, I think it fitting that we look back at the first and second films. So here are the trailers for 2004’s Before Sunset and 1995’s Before Sunrise:




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YouTube Trailer:

BeforeSunrise Trailer:

BeforeSunset Trailer:

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