by Cormac O

 

I have never seen Richard Linklater’s first two installments of his romantic trilogy. Even though I admire the director’s other work, particularly the cult, coming of age Dazed and Confused (1993), it seemed a tall order to get me to see a romantic drama. However, Before Midnight is far from romantic even if it wants to be. It is a realistic and rational look at a longterm relationship between two middle aged characters. It’s also funnier than most romantic comedies without trying to.

I can understand why most, especially men, wouldn’t want to see this even if they had a gun to their head, but if you take it for what it is and are willing to just go with it you might be pleasantly surprised. If you choose not to go with the flow you will hate it as it would appear incredibly tedious. We get scenes that go on for twenty minutes with one camera, two people, walking and talking. The talking is great and is what propels the film, while the performances enhance it. Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Linklater, clearly well acquainted from the previous Before flicks, share the writing credits and they’d have to. It is genuinely impressive to see these two actors carry out a dialogue rally for twenty minutes without a break.

Although a Texas native, it is evident that Linklater is world travelled and possesses a universal outlook. You can see the influences from French New Wave filmmakers such as Jean Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer, who also took the theme of love and beat it around, released it from its imprisonment within the Hollywood narrative formula in order to question and philosophise it. Shot on location in Greece, the foundation of western philosophy, we witness the couple discuss their past, future and present while incorporating debate on the social and cultural history of men and women. They are not naive chislers anymore, they are sober and uncertain about the huge gamble to spend the rest of their lives together.

Before Midnight is a film about people, about their aspirations and anxieties. It’s about wanting to get everything out of life, but unfortunately the time given to us cannot accommodate it all. The running time of Before Midnight is 109 minutes. Try to fit it in.

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