Dir: Richard Linklater, 2013, English, 109min, Drama/Romance
We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.
An American father, JESSE, (Ethan Hawke) is seeing off his son HANK (Seamus Davey–Fitzpatrick) at the Kalamata Airport in Greece. Hank’s returning to his mother and life in the U.S. after spending the “best summer ever” with Jesse and his family. The middle–schooler is more composed than his fortyish father, who hovers anxiously as their separation draws near.
Geography weighs heavily on Jesse. Outside the airport, he rejoins his family: CELINE (Julie Delpy) and their young twin daughters ELLA and NINA (Jennifer and Charlotte Prior). As they drive through the austerely beautiful rocky hillsides of Messinia, Jesse and Celine talk—about living so far from Hank, about her career as an environmentalist and hopes for a new job, about the swirl of ancient and modern Greece around them. Jesse hints at wanting to move back to America from their home in Paris, but Celine has done her U.S. time—they lived in New York for a spell—and has no wish to return. Their long history together bubbles between them.
Jesse’s a successful novelist, and they’re in Greece at a writer’s retreat, staying in the bucolic country villa of an older expat writer, PATRICK (Walter Lassally). Jesse’s given to flights of creative fancy which charm the assembled company, warmly hospitable Greek couples, but Celine—whose own past has played a starring role in Jesse’s semi–autobiographical novels—is perhaps a bit weary of serving as alluring French muse to Jesse’s fiction career.
As a treat, their Greek friends have gifted Jesse and Celine with a night at a luxurious seaside hotel while they babysit the twins. Feeling the undercurrent of friction between them, Celine wants to beg off, but their friends insist. They set off on foot through the spectacular countryside, meandering through meadows and villages, enjoying each others’ company, talking, teasing, debating, flirting.
What does a longterm couple do in a sleek hotel room besides throw off their worries, responsibilities, and clothes and make love? But for Jesse and Celine, realities intrude: the weight of children, work, ambitions, disappointments; the ebb and flow of romantic love ; the strains of an evolving, deepening relationship. Their idyllic night tests them in unexpected ways.
Jesse and Celine first met in their twenties in BEFORE SUNRISE (1995), reunited in their thirties in BEFORE SUNSET (2004), and now, in BEFORE MIDNIGHT, they face the past, present and future; family, romance, and love. Before the clock strikes midnight, their story again unfolds.