Before Midnight, Directed by Richard Linklater (2013)

For those who like smart dialogue of the quality that usually is only found in fine literature, is there a greater trilogy than that of Richard Linklater’s series of Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013)?  All three films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The nine year spacing of the films is simply perfect and shows, as true to life as ever done on film, the lovers as young, idealistic and carefree (Before Sunrise), to maturing and more cognizant of the reality of life (Before Sunset), to full middle age adulthood, with responsibilities and a bit of jading (Before Midnight). Just as one would expect in real life as one ages, gaining some wisdom and life experience, the dialogue in each subsequent film becomes more mature, deep, penetrating and thoughtful. Idealism is replaced by reality.

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This is film at its best. Especially Before Sunset and Before Midnight, the dialogue is simply as good as it gets and rises to the level of literature (only Before Sunrise is a bit immature in dialogue, but again I expect as it would be in real life with characters of the age in the movie). There is no action, no erotic sex scenes, no stupid or trendy film tricks. Each film really only has a few scenes, such as in Before Midnight Hawke and Delpy talking in the car for probably 20 minutes or so while driving through Greece, followed by another 20 minutes or so at a small dinner party at a friends house in the countryside, followed by a 15 minute walk into town and most of the remainder of the film in a hotel. The camera disappears, really just providing the viewer an opportunity to walk and sit with the characters, silently listening in to their conversations on the meaning of life, love, being, time and a number of other topics. It really is amazing, as they walk you are there with them, as they talk, you think how much of what they say is what you would say. It simply resonates.

Hawke and Delpy shine in these movies, and just keep getting better. Their chemistry is remarkable. Their interactions and discussions come across as real, unrehearsed and natural. Only Before Midnight really has any supporting actors, and they all are superb. The dinner conversation, while outside on a stunningly beautiful patio on the Greek countryside, with three generations represented, is simply the kind of thoughtful, witty and humorous conversation that one dreams of having but rarely has. Food, wine and conversation — this is the epitome of how that is supposed to work!

Those under 30 probably would be bored, unless they have intellect beyond their years. Those over 60 may or may not relate any longer to the dialogue.  Those 35-50 will be stunned at how good a movie such as Before Midnight can be (unless of course, one has no desire to contemplate). Whether you have seen Before Sunrise or Before Sunset or not, RUN to a theater showing Before Midnight (as the review in Time states, “If I were only allowed to see one movie this year, I’d want it to be Before Midnight. If I were only allowed two trips to a theater this year, I’d see it twice.”)  It will be the most worthwhile film you will see this year, probably in many years. You do not need to see the first two films to understand or appreciate the third.  Of course, for those with Apple TV (or some other similar device), it is well worth it to watch the first two purely to go into the latest film with a deeper understanding of the characters. My wife actually preferred to watch them newest to oldest, enjoying the reverse progression of the character’s maturity.

Here is a review from Buzzfeed calling it “Heartbreaking genius.”  The Week, says “Before Midnight is the most important cinematic love story of all time”. The Telegraph calls it a “series that is gradually becoming one of the most remarkable in movie history.” One can find scores of reviews, universal in praise.

Going in reverse order, here is the trailer for Before Midnight:

Here is the trailer for Before Sunset:

Here is the trailer for Before Sunrise:

I for one am marking my calendar, and hoping beyond hope that Linklater, Hawke and Delpy create another few installments in 2022, 2031 and 2040!

Let me leave you with some quotes. One could pick out scores and scores across the three movies, here is just a sampling.

  • I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.
  • But not knowing is not so bad. The point is to be looking, searching, to stay hungry.
  • You have to be a little deluded to be motivated.
  • Women explore for eternity in the vast garden of sacrifice.
  • I don’t know, I think that if I could just accept the fact that my life is supposed to be difficult. You know, that’s what to be expected, then I might not get so pissed-off about it and I’ll just be glad when something nice happens.
  • Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.
  • I like getting older … it feels more immediate, like I can appreciate things more.
  • You know what’s the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you? Is when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with, and you realize that that is how little they’re thinking about you.
  • You know what drives me crazy? All these people talking about how great technology is and how it saves all this time. But what good is saved time if nobody uses it? It just turns into more busy work, right? You never hear somebody say, ‘Well, with the time I’ve saved by using my Word Processor, I’m gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out.
  • I guess when you’re young you you just believe there’s be many people with whom you connect … Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.

7 thoughts on “Before Midnight, Directed by Richard Linklater (2013)

  1. Nick (@EPursuits):

    You are making life W-A-A-A-A-Y-Y-Y too difficult !! These films are readily available and a complete boxed set of DVDs with all eight documentaries, from the original ‘Seven-Up’ to the most recent ’56-Up’ , was just released last month (07/02/2013). Best of all, it is available on the U.S. eBay for only $56.22, an astounding bargain. To find the updated (most recent) boxed set, do the following:

    1. Go the eBay home page and type in (without the quotation marks): “The Up Series New DVD Boxset”.
    At the top of the page that subsequently appears, the complete boxed set should appear as the first listing. The box is blue with white and yellow colors in the title “The UP Series”. The boxed set is being offered by an eBay vendor with the eBay name: moviemars_newreleases. Be certain that you purchase the latest set and that it includes ’56-Up’.

    P.S. You owe me one !!

    1. You can get that very same box set on Amazon for $44.49. It does not have subtitles or captions. I’ve actually viewed it already. My sole requirement for any DVD or Blu movie or television series is that it must have subtitles or captions. I’ve been unable to find any such copies with subtitles/captions (and don’t want to have to resort to the online subtitling community). You can easily find these films, it’s true – but not so easy to find a copy anywhere that has captions or subtitles.

      PS: This isn’t an unreasonable request – I’m deaf and cannot hear anything at all. I have to have subtitles or captions of some sort. If I have to, I’d even take French subtitles, since I can read French. Documentaries are always an issue for me since so many fail to have captions or subtitles of any type.

      1. My bad!! I missed the subtitle requirement. This may be reaching a bit, but perhaps searching the French eBay website may turn up a set with French subtitles.

  2. Michael Apted’s “7-Up” project is one of the most original and intriguing projects in cinema and documentary film throughout the 20th century. The original film was released in 1964, involving 14 seven-year old children from widely varying strata of British society. The introduction to this film restates an old British proverb or motto that (loosely stated) “if you show me the child, I will show you the man/woman” and that would be proven with subsequent films released at seven-year intervals.

    The unstated intent of this series was to also demonstrate how the rigid British class structure put a ceiling on many careers and lives. Great Britain has always held the unenviable distinction of being the industrialized 1st-World country was the lowest rate of upward social mobility and still remains so to this day Unfortunately, the U.S. is a close second in this regard and it is rapidly overtaking Great Britain in this regard, the result of forty years of Reagenonmic policies that favor corporations over workers, a substandard minimum wage, worker and middle-class salaries that –accounting for inflation — are less than they were 40 years ago, and hyperinflation of college tuition which has made obtaining a college education unaffordable for many (most?) families. The subsequent films in this series have indeed borne out this premise with most lives taking predictable career paths.

    What the director may not have anticipated is that this series has become far richer and more important than simply exploring class rigidity in British society. As we have followed these fourteen children into adulthood, through marriages, divorces, career disappointments, mental instability (in one case), they have demonstrated a life-affirming resilience to persevere, an uncanny ability to make lemonade out of life’s lemons. Director Michael Apted has, perhaps unwittingly, created a documentary series for the ages.

    I have seen the first four of the “7-Up” films and then lost track of it. I was astonished to learn that this series had added an additional four films since my last viewing, the latest released in 2012, and it is still an ongoing project. I have some very pleasant “homework” to do in catching up on the next twenty-eight years in their lives.

    1. Fine summary there, dlphcoracl. I actually became aware of this series when the latest film came out in 2012. I’m still trying to find a DVD somewhere, anywhere, that has subtitles or captions. I’ve watched bits and pieces of all of the films but really need the subtitles/captions.

      There’s even a recent interview on NPR with Apted about the series. The reason it’s lasted this long… Apted was only 22 when he began the series! The subjects were 7 (obviously). One of my favorite quotes from the interview is, “… the age difference has long since ceased to matter … “.

      I find the whole series fascinating and will redouble my efforts to find a DVD, no matter which region it is, with subtitles. None of the US box sets has subtitles or captions. Some of the later films (ie: the most recent two or so) may have them on the single-disc releases though.

  3. I enjoyed this film review of yours – this trilogy has been on my “to-view” list for quite some time. You may or may not be aware that this is a fictional counterpart to Michael Apted’s “7-Up” British documentary series, but it focuses on the single pair and their relationship instead of the multiple children featured in the 7-Up series (which I’ve attempted to view several times, but been unable to procure a copy with captions or subtitles).

    I’m looking forward to further film reviews!

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