Before Midnight Blu-ray Review
In 1995, writer and director Richard Linklater created BEFORE SUNRISE, a small film about a young man and woman who meet on a train in Europe and spend one romantic evening together. Nine years later the director and the actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reunited and wrote a sequel picking up with the characters as they spend the day catching up for the first time since that special night from when they were young in 2004’s BEFORE SUNSET. Now, another nine year later, we get the incredible pleasure of once again meeting up with Jesse and Celine in BEFORE MIDNIGHT.
Who would have guessed that eighteen years after BEFORE SUNRISE we would still be checking in with Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy)? As the actors and director have commented, they did not. While the first two films have a more romanticized appeal as it follows new love, BEFORE MIDNIGHT has the challenging task of following the characters when the romance has faded away. Jesse and Celine are now older with twins facing the challenges of their partnership. The film opens with Jesse saying goodbye to his son from a previous marriage as he boards a plane heading back to his mothers. Jesse hates that he is unable to see his son as often, which is a budding source of frustration that helps catapult an uneasy tension that seems to be permeating between the once romantic lovers.
It’s somewhat unfair to compare these stories as they are simply continuations of these two characters lives. While BEFORE MIDNIGHT may be tougher to stomach because it finds our characters during hardship rather than the will they or won’t they beginnings of a soul mate love relationship that the other two films follow, it is a very believable progression that these two characters would face. However, I want to be careful and preface the fact that while I find their story very real and believable, I don’t believe that all couples go through what these two have. In fact, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is almost frustrating to watch as I naturally want my beloved characters to be happy and in love. This feeling is a testament to the authenticity and likability of the characters and films they have created.
Technically speaking, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, like its predecessors, is quite amazing. Shot in basically five scenes, the film is full of long shots and heavily dialogue driven action. Every scene is beautifully composited using the exotic location of a gorgeous Greece backdrop. Linklater wisely keeps the camera nestled on our two stars finding the appropriate angle and space that allows the audience to lose themselves in these two characters conversations. But none of this would work without the incredible performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who clearly know and love their characters despite their flaws. The effortless way in which these two interact is a chemistry unmatched by most anyone I’ve seen on screen calling back in some minor ways to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?.
If you have not seen any of these films I can’t recommend them enough. Each one holds up on its own as a stand alone film with a sense of mystery glimpsing into their world for only a day. But while the first two are a bit more romantic, the third is grounded in domestic reality. I love these characters and I want the best for them, so it’s tough to see them make the mistakes that they do without the ability to help. Their love is still clearly prevalent, just a bit more comfortable, with what I believe is a God-shaped hole. Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were all nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Screenplay category for BEFORE SUNSET, which made my Ten Best Films of the Decade list. While BEFORE MIDNIGHT may not quite hold the same impact, I hope to see their name once again on the ballot and hopefully their characters again in another nine years.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1) The picture looks great through simple and effective camera work capturing the environment around the characters.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Every word spoken in this dialogue driven film is heard clearly.
Audio Commentary: Director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who all co-wrote the film come together for a great commentary. These characters and films are a true passion and if you are at all moved by these films, you will enjoy the commentary.
Revisiting Jesse & Celine (7:19) Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy discuss how where their characters are at now and how the their story differs from the previous films.
Q&A with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater (37:03): More great information from the power three as they discuss financing, writing, acting and overall tone. Again, a great feature that fans of the film will thoroughly enjoy.