Quite possibly the most unlikely trilogy of all time, director Richard Linklater’s Before series is also one of the best. Audiences fell for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s young lovers in 1995’s Before Sunrise and were delighted to catch up with the duo again in 2004’s Before Sunset. Given the rather cliffhanger-like ending to the second film, anticipation was high for a possible third feature but Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy played coy about the prospect of another film for nearly nine years. That is, until they wrote and shot this year’s Before Midnight almost in secret, only confirming its existence after production had wrapped in Greece. The result is an emotional and sometimes tough look at life in love, and it’s also one of the best films of the year. Read my review of Before Midnight on Blu-ray after the jump.
Picking up nine years after the events of Before Sunset, we see at the beginning of Before Midnight that Jesse and Celine are together at long last and have been for a while. The two have twin daughters, and we catch up with the duo on one of their last days of vacation in Greece. As with the first two films, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy use Midnight as a vehicle for covering a wide range of subjects through the frank conversations between the two lead characters over the course of a single day. But they also add a new ingredient to the equation by staging a lengthy chat around a dinner table that gives a number of other characters the chance to pontificate on love, marriage, and relationships in general.
Hawke and Delpy slip back into the lead roles as if they never left them, but Jesse and Celine are fittingly changed since we last saw them. They have been steadily together for nearly a decade now, and they face the same challenges that many long-term couples confront daily. Hawke and Delpy tackle these issues head on with wonderfully conversational dialogue, and when the two dive into a prolonged argument in the middle of the film, it’s a bit like watching Mom and Dad fight. We’ve come to know and love these characters so well over the course of two films that we’re wholly invested in their relationship.
It’s a testament to the fantastic writing that one could make a solid case for either side in nearly every argument or issue raised in the film, and Delpy and Hawke sell the hell out of their characters’ positions. Before Midnight is more reflective than the past two films, and for good reason. These are not the two young and foolish twentysomethings who spent a spontaneous evening together in France; their perspectives on life have changed, as have Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy’s. We’ve seen the heat between Jesse and Celine as two young lovers with their whole lives ahead of them, we’ve seen the complicated reunion when that passion unexpectedly returns, and now it’s time to see how Jesse and Celine fare as a fully fledged couple well into their committed relationship. I can only hope we get the opportunity to check back in on the duo in nine more years.
Both the video and audio quality on the Blu-ray transfer are of the utmost quality, with 1080p picture and 5.1 sound.
With such a small scale film, it’s to be expected that the home video budget didn’t exactly leave a lot of room to pack the Blu-ray full of extras. While we wait for a proper trilogy box set, the bonus features on this Before Midnight disc are fascinating enough.
- Audio Commentary: A feature-length commentary track by Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy covers a variety of subjects, from the technical aspects of making the film to the progression of the themes throughout the trilogy. They also discuss their real-life experiences that influenced the film.
- Revisiting Jesse & Celine: A short yet entertaining featurette offering a behind-the-scenes look at the production in Greece. The cast and crew discuss how the third film came about and the process that lead to Before Midnight becoming a reality.
- Q&A with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Richard Linklater: An Elvis Mitchell-moderated discussion with the main creative trio behind the film, clocking in at just under 40 minutes in length. Again they cover a variety of subjects relating to the film and the trilogy as a whole, including making Before Midnight independently.
Following up the brilliant one-two punch of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset was no easy task, but Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy rose to the challenge to create a fitting and moving third entry in this unlikely franchise. Though the Blu-ray isn’t exactly stacked with extras, it’ll have to do for now as we eagerly await Blu-ray transfers for the first two films. Regardless, you’ll likely find yourself revisiting middle-age Jessie and Celine enough to warrant this Blu-ray purchase.