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Superior In Every Way
An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis
Eighteen years ago Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
starred in “Before Sunrise,” the first of a film trilogy that followed a
young couple who had the freedom to say “Let’s get off the train and fall
in love tonight in Vienna.” I wrote then that it would be great fun to see
them meet again in a couple of decades when they have some life
experience. Well here they are. Acting once again under the subtle touch
of writer/director Richard Linklater who co-wrote the script with Julie
Delpy, they have planted “Before Midnight” near the top of anyone’s list
of best movies of this year.
two decades, Jesse has a teenage son, an angry ex-wife and twin daughters
with Celine. In a moving opening scene, Jesse is putting Henry on a plane
to return to his mother in Chicago after a summer visit in Greece where he
and Celine have spent an idyllic six weeks with their children in the
guest cottage of a marvelous Greek family.
Linklater knows that given superior writing and acting, one long
conversational ramble can sustain an entire film. He laces the running
talk with the cultural changes of eighteen years along with a strong grasp
of the resentments and tripping points that build in longtime couples.
conversation unfurls as the two walk and drive through the beautiful Greek
countryside. In a midpoint shift, three generations of the host family sit
with Celine and Jesse at the dinner table and roam over questions of life
and love with humor and acceptance. Their provocative conclusion is that
friendship and love of life matter far more than romantic love. The
extraordinary authenticity of this memorable scene springs from the talent
and warmth of a group of amazing Greek actors.
On their last
night in Greece, Jesse and Celine have been given by their hosts a
romantic getaway at a hotel. On their lovely long walk to that evening,
their world seems perfect. The private time is interrupted harshly by a
cell phone call from Jesse’s son that raises Jesse’s guilt about missing
his son’s high school years. The spell is broken.
of whether they might move back to Chicago triggers a superbly intricate
and prolonged argument that touches all the trouble spots in their
partnership. While there is no genuine cruelty in Celine’s attack or
Jesse’s defense, real anger pours forth in a cascade of buried
resentments. A collective groan of appreciation rolls through the audience
when Celine roars, “I take care of myself and everyone else - women
explore forever in the garden of sacrifice!” Julie Delpy is especially
grand when she’s bitter. She stands front and center in this long fight,
surely one of the best ever filmed.
Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater have become a team rooted in mutual
trust and daring. They explore and explode, always unpredictably. They are
master storytellers, and theirs is the work of artists.