Review: Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Here's hoping you haven't seen the first trailer for Before Midnight, which is basically a big spoiler. There seems to be a shared thought among fans of Richard Linklater's "Before" films that one wants to be surprised when they walk into the theatre and see how Celine and Jesse work out this time. Before I caught the SXSW screening in March, I did read Debbie's review because I was too excited and had to know. That being said, is it possible to review this movie without giving too much away? I will try.

Before Midnight takes place during one long day in Greece. First we see Jesse (Ethan Hawke) at the Kalamata airport, talking to his adolescent son before the kid has to fly back to the States where he lives with his mom. Jesse's face during this scene is periodically pierced with regret, as he wishes his son could stay longer. After Jesse is picked up from the airport, he and Celine (Julie Delpy) talk while driving through Greek countryside -- after the SXSW screening, Linklater noted during his Q&A that this car scene is over 13 minutes long, with no cuts. He also commented that every location they used in Greece was found during a two-day visit.

Both Jesse and Celine are older -- and somewhat wiser -- in Before Midnight than when we were first introduced to them 18 years ago. The issues both characters have to deal with now are far more personal and less general. Their discussions encompass gender roles, parenting, relationships, Celine's job, Jesse's writing and more. Unlike the previous two films, other characters factor more into the storyline and discussions. Still, the focus is on the interactions between Celine and Jesse.

These films have been consecutively deeper, darker and more intense with each outing, which is understandable as these characters have more history between them as years pass. In Before Midnight, a scene that begins with Celine and Jesse amorously fondling and fumbling on a bed soon turns into a full-blown argument between them. This long sequence progresses so that our only reminder of the earlier dalliance is the top of Celine's dress still pulled down to her waist. It is uncomfortable to watch the two push each other's buttons and make comments that may inflict harsh damage.

I feel like these movies are progressively more honest in their depiction of these characters, perhaps because Delpy, Hawke and Linklater (who all wrote the screenplay together) have grown along with them. Before Midnight is far from a gloomy movie; there are still laugh-out-loud moments tossed in. It is just an extremely frank look at these two characters -- faults, foibles and all -- which still leaves us pulling for Celine and Jesse.

Austin connections: Director Linklater is from Austin, and Ethan Hawke was born here.