What I find amazing about the "Before" films by Linkater, Delpy and Hawke, is how they grow with me.
Before Sunrise I saw many years after its release and found it the most sophmoric of efforts. Especially I found Jessie's character unlikable, but I still found the romantic element to be full of spark and the conversation of interest. Linklater is the master of conversation films, and this one was good, if not excellent.
Before Sunrise, which takes place nine years after the first film, was a remarkable improvement for me. The maturity of both characters was marked both emotionally and intellectually. We were clearly seeing the same people, yet different many years apart. As the movie grows, so does the spark we saw in the first film until it was clear that this romance was fated. I understood this film, and it struck my soul. This was romance as I knew it, if perhaps a bit more intellectual. Two souls marked for life.
Before Midnight, however, is a big question mark. The characters have matured again, physically and emotionally, and time has worn on them. There is sorrow over past decisions and anger over how trapped they are in the life they choose. There is much speech about the necessity of being transitory, but still flashes of the romantic in the first two films.
This also is romance as I understand it now. Anger, desperate decisions, insecurity, attachment worn by years. This film isn't about romance, it's about the life that grows out of romance. It's about decisions that can't be turned back and the continuous process of creating a life together, and how difficult each decision could be.
It reminds me strongly of Certified Copy and the themes explored in that film, which was clearly influenced by the Before films. In Certified Copy, it explores the change and yet the sameness of a relationship over many years, almost trying to put Before Sunrise and Before Midnight in a single film.
The strength of Before Midnight, however, is the strength of the characters the three writers created. It is exciting to participate in the scintillating conversation between these two vibrant people. This time, there are more characters, many as powerful as the initial two. Especially two elderly actors, who give powerful points about the power and movement of love. The discussion around the table is one of the most powerful scenes in the whole series, and possibly the most fascinating discussion about gender and love since Plato's Symposium.
Yes, it a movie full of talking. And it is a rollercoaster of emotion and depth. The final scene is a powerful conclusion for the trilogy, should the trio decide to retire this series.
DONT TAKE ME SERIOUSLY! Please, Linklater and team, come back again in nine years. I have so much to learn, and I don't want to lose these friends of mine.
P.S. A couple things that surprised me in the film. First is the frank talk of sex in the film. The second is the topless Julie Delpy in the middle section of the film. I was watching the film with my 13 year old daughter and nothing like that had been shown before. Some frank discussion of sex, but certainly no depiction. Now, Delpy's topless, Hawke is nuzzling her nipples... ummm... and I'm getting very uncomfy watching this with my daughter. I purposely didn't ready anything about this third film so I could appreciate it all new and everything. It wasn't just that she was topless, but half the conversation in that scene is just her with no top. In a sense, it was cool. This is how married couples converse at times. It seemed very natural. Except I was watching it with my young daughter. Okay, I wish I had known that.
One other thing: Julie Delpy is such an amazing actress. I watched her performance in Three Colors: White a couple months ago and in 2 Days in New York yesterday. She can do anything, and she seems to have fun with whatever she plays. In Before Midnight I wish she could get an Academy. It's such a powerful role.