Before Midnight

photo for It’s been 18 years since director Richard Linklater teamed with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for “Before Sunrise” (1995), a romantic drama about two strangers, American tourist Jesse and French student Celine (in their twenties), who meet on a train bound for Vienna and spend a day and night together discussing love, life, religion, and the possibility of feelings for each other. It’s been nine years since “Before Sunset” (2004), when the three reteamed for a sequel in which Jesse, now a successful author, travels to Paris for a book signing at Shakespeare and Company; in the audience, attracted by the book that was based on their interlude nine years before, is Celine. This time they have the briefest of encounters as Jesse, now married with a son, must catch a plane back to the states. Still, they talk over love, life, politics, and their unfulfilling relationships with their significant others. The film ends on an ambiguous note: Does Jesse stay or catch his flight? In this next installment, Jesse and Celine, now in their forties, face the past, present and future: family, romance and love. It turns out Jesse has left his marriage and his son in America, and now lives with Celine in Paris with their twin daughters. On a writer’s retreat in Greece, the couple looks forward to a night of passion, but instead their idyllic evening turns into a test of their relationship and a discussion of what the future holds for them. Jesse yearns to spend more time with his son in the states; Celine resents her role as mother and housekeeper. What starts out as a beautiful day devolves into antagonism, hateful words, and spiteful actions. And, again, they talk of life and love and human relationships. Since there’s so very little action in the film — it’s basically just Jesse and Celine talking while driving, walking and strolling through the beautiful Greek countryside — the narrative only works if the viewer can empathize with the pair, which may be difficult since they are so painfully honest about their feelings (as is, almost unbelievably, everyone else in the film). It’s all about their relationship, and what it says about love, life, marriage, and long-term commitment. If you like Hawke-Jesse and Delpy-Celine — or if you want Woody Allen-like conversations on steroids — this is for you. Extras: Commentary with Hawke, Delpy and Linklater, “Revisiting Jesse & Celine” featurette, Q&A with Hawke, Delpy and Linklater. Vitals: Director: Richard Linklater. Stars: Ethan Hawke Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Romantic Drama, Box office gross: $8.016 million, Sony. 3 stars

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