When last we left Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) in 2004’s Before Sunset, the couple had just reunited after a semi-chance encounter in Paris a decade after their first — and only — meeting in 1995’s Before Sunrise. Now another decade has passed in Before Midnight and the couple are on vacation in Greece with their twin daughters. But not everything is as seemingly wonderful in paradise as one might expect.
The couple and their daughters have spent the summer vacationing at a Greek villa with Jesse’s writing associates. Also joining them for the summer is Jesse’s now teenage son, who we see briefly during a predictably awkward goodbye while departing from Greece to go home to his mother in the United States. Meanwhile, Céline, dissatisfied with her job, is contemplating a new job and how that change could effect the entire family’s life.
Where the other films in the Before series have focused on the couple meandering through beautiful, narrow European cobblestone streets, this film does, too. The Greek scenery is lovely. But it also has something else that, by and large, the other films omitted: supporting characters. Jesse and Céline are no longer alone. They have conversations and exchange ideas with people other than each other. That change in in the formula adds a new and different depth to the film.
What is the best and worst quality of Before Midnight is the reality of their situation: a bored longterm relationship. The argument that the film spends the majority of time building towards is verbally aggressive, honest and difficult to watch. While the entire concept of this series of films has been a conversation and dialog about love, romance, relationships and life, Before Midnight is a sour comedown. This isn’t a feel-good movie. Real? Sure. But how “real” do you want your films?