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Sundance Review: Before Midnight

When I heard that a sequel was being made to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, I was absolutely thrilled. Then when I heard it would be premiering at Sundance, I decided I would do everything in my power to see the third installment. Like any other cinema lover invested in this great love story, I couldn't wait to find out what happened after the events of Before Sunset. So many questions left unanswered, so much potential, and most importantly: characters that I longed to see again. As always though with this story, what I got wasn't really what I was expecting at all. Well....actually I kind of expected it since a few too many reviews I read shared too many details. I'll try to refrain from getting into specifics, but this film can't really be reviewed without saying that their relationship has drastically changed from the last two films as a consequence of the choices made in the previous two and the years in between.

Before Midnight shares many similarities to its two predecessors, but definitely feels the most different of the three. This is largely due to where the characters are at now in their lives and what has transpired between them. No longer are their conversations as endlessly fascinating as they were in Sunrise and even Sunset, oftentimes they can be mundane (or worse; bickering and explosive.) Their encounter this time isn't romanticized like the previous two, this time it's lived in and very strained. The characters have become more real with each outing as we see how life has hardened them. It really is an amazing feat for a filmmaker to be able to successfully revisit these characters, but it isn't always the easiest to watch how they've changed...especially when Celine is always itching for a fight.

I love how Before Sunset didn't necessarily try to duplicate the plot of Before Sunrise. It was more of an examination of how that night in the original, had affected these characters. In Before Midnight, too, the formula may be the same (of the one-on-one walk and talk,) but the themes and general tone are so much different. This time, again we explore the consequences of a choice, but like Jesse warned in both previous installments, if things in their relationship ever changed from what they were in the past, their relationship might not be so idealized as they once thought. This almost seems to be the entire theme of Before Midnight, as this fear of young Jesse seems to have come to fruition. The real question becomes how do you still try to sustain a relationship like that and still try to make it work?

Like its predecessors, Before Midnight offered plenty of food for thought. However, it didn't feel as effortless as the others in sucking me in right from the start. To be honest, I kind of had a hard time getting into it when other people besides Celine or Jesse were chipping into the conversations (luckily the whole movie wasn't like this, but a good portion was.) To me, these films have always been about a conversation between just two people, so I didn't have much interest in what anyone else had to say. The real magic happens when these two are just with each other, and even though both of their personalities have changed quite a bit (okay Celine far more than Jesse) they've still got it...and you can't help but root or these two to be together. There were definitely some things I could have done without, as this was the most adult and grittiest film in the series....but it was also thankfully the funniest. It was a treat to see these characters again, and while it may not be my favorite in the series (probably because I personally relate less to what they are going through this time around since I haven't reached that stage in my life...) I'd be glad to spend time with Jesse and Celine any day. RATING: 8.5/10


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