Director Richard Linklater made a triumphant return to the Sundance Film Festival with Before Midnight – the third part of his decades-spanning romantic trilogy that began with Before Sunrise (which premiered at the 1995 festival).
The indie king himself put in an appearance at the film’s first screening (which prompted rave reactions from an emotional audience), saying he had brought the saga back to its “spiritual home”.
Midnight catches up with lovebirds Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) on holiday in an idyllic Greek village (years after finally hooking up in 2004’s Before Sunset ), now middle-aged parents of twin daughters.
The film quickly finds the two leads effortlessly slip into their spiky, back-and-forth dynamic, opening with an impressive 15-minute, one-take car journey that sees the pair musing on the trials of family life and getting old.
Co-written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy, Midnight is frequently hilarious (boasting an impressively high hit-rate of zingers) but also digs new emotional depths, as past mistakes and Celine’s neurotic temper threaten to put the brakes on the couple’s relationship.
Culminating in an even-longer (30-plus minutes) unbroken shot which sees the pair’s issues and fears spilling out during a heated hotel-room argument, Midnight is also an impressive (and exquisitely shot) showcase for its stars matured performances: naturally warm, witty and intimate.
A welcome revisit of old friends, Midnight is a fantastic round-off to the trilogy. Or is it? Linklater said that while he’s not thinking about it just yet, he wouldn’t totally rule out a future installment. Start getting your title suggestions ready for 2023…