Before Midnight needed to achieve two things. As a follow-up to Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), it needed to satisfy die-hard fans of Jesse, Celine and their story. Beyond that, it also needed to work as stand-alone movie, being accessible to audiences unfamiliar with the previous films. It succeeds at both – but is a very different film depending on which of those two camps you fall into.
If you are unfamiliar with the first two Before films, this movie is a study of a relationship at a cross-roads. The movie opens with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) saying goodbye to his teenage son at a Greek airport. His son is the product of a failed marriage, and Jesse has a new life with Celine (Julie Delpy) and their twin daughters. As a family, they have just spent what we assume to have been an idyllic summer together in Greece, but now they face the return to reality, as Jesse’s son returns to his mother in the US. This long, tense, heartrending scene sets the film in motion, as the following 109 minutes gently reveal the deep-seated, long-festering resentments that simmer just below the surface. Continue reading