American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) was 23 years old back in 1994, when he crossed paths with the Parisian Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train in Europe. They talked, as only two young would-be lovers would, and made plans to meet up one year later. It was all so romantic, so destined to be, right? Wrong. Approximately nine years later, Jesse has written a book about that night, fictionalizing certain elements, while somehow remaining faithful to his version of the truth of what happened that night. He’s on an abbreviated European book tour, reading and re-living that night, when suddenly, there she is…Celine.
The attraction, which was there in the beginning, remains, but it has matured some, seasoned with age and experience. Celine takes him back to her place and sings for him, but he’s got a plane to catch before the sun goes down, so that he can head back to the States and the family awaiting him. Flash forward to the present, almost another 10 years, and now director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset), co-scripting again with Delpy and Hawke, populates the frames this time with other couples and gives voice to a few more perspectives on love and life, to counter and augment the two sides we’ve always had from Jesse and Celine. For some of us watching this time, we may see and hear our own stories in those other voices. Before Midnight reminds me in some ways of Michael Apted’s Up series, which has documented the lives of the same group of British adults every seven years. Linklater, Delpy and Hawke have traced the evolution of these characters so thoroughly and honestly that it is difficult to image that we won’t see them again, nine years from now. But will they still be riding along together or on separate tracks? (R) Grade: A-