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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Before Midnight

Or: At the Talkies

It’s rather disconcerting to come in at the middle of a saga. The third chapter of a low banked but glowing modern love story, following Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Before Midnight chronicles that most dramatic (and entertaining) season of Romance, the fracturing.

Spoilers abound. Celine (Delpy) and Jessie (Hawke), now in a domestic partnership are spending the summer in Greece amongst gorgeous vistas, good conversation and their young twin daughters. Jessie is concerned about his young son, who is growing up without him in America, and Celest is concerned by her hubbies dreams of taking her to America and away from her dream job. We follow them for an afternoon and night as things fall apart between them. Hee hee.

The audience member would do well to come to the theater prepared for the long hall. The film, composed of an admirable number of “oners” (that is to say one long, moving shots without any cuts in-between), is all about the exchange of ideals and the mapping of details, a film of intellect not of action. I’d advise you to pay particular attention during the car ride, described by an associate as “deadly dull”, and instead turn it into a kind of treasure hunt. Celine and Jessie may be talking about small personal matters but you can see the flash of fissures in their silences or winces, signs of the coming quake. Other scenes, such as a dinner conversation with some well understated and handled Greek and English actors (Lassally and Tsangari are stand outs), reward the patient viewer with splendid posits about the nature of men and women, relations in general, and the curvature of human society. All in all its the kind of intelligent conversation you wish (or at least I wish, I can’t speak for your desires dear reader) you could have all the time.

The script, written by Hawke, Delpy and Linklater the director, is extremely naturalistic and handles its high born comments in a down to earth sort of manner. Hawke and Delpy slide easily from romance, to complacency to conflict and back again. It is quite an exorcise, for any actor, to chart their shuffling between rational thought and irrational outburst, subtle soul searching to carefree joshing. Hawke is a charming madcap, who’s stumbles into stupidity are salvaged by the inventive stepladders he creates to get out of them. Delpy is much more relaxed in her roll than her partner and goes for the understated reactions, inviting us to guess her thoughts rather than spelling them out.

Apart from some very strong language and an unfortunate bedroom scene (in which I found the ceiling tiles of the movie theater very interesting indeed), the film is an excellent opportunity to take your close friends and after spend a few hours discussing your future.

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