Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, and the film has earned overwhelming praise from critics.
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the indie serves as a follow-up to “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004).
Linklater, Hawke and Delpy, who earned Oscar nominations for the "Before Sunset” script, also penned the screenplay for “Before Midnight.”
The first two films chronicle the romance between an American writer (Hawke) and a French activist (Delpy), who meet on a train in Vienna and reunite nine years later in Paris. In “Before Midnight,” the pair travels to Greece to visit family and find that the trip conjures up powerful emotions.
Based on the film’s reviews, it’s clear that the dramedy is an early Sundance favorite.
“The work Richard Linklater and company started in 1995's 'Before Sunrise' retains a clarity of spirit undimmed by 18 years,” John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter said. “In ‘Before Midnighht,' its two lovers not only have longings and worries we identify with; they fight as we do, too. They are as convincing in middle age as they were as passionate youths sharing a one-night encounter. Though this stage is harder to watch, audiences who have aged along with Celine and Jesse will treasure this new episode.”
Katey Rich of Cinema Blend calls “Before Midnight” “perfect” and notes that fans of the first two installments will delight in revisiting the film’s two central characters once again.
“If you thought the first two films in this series were perfect, as I did, ‘Before Midnight’ will line up right alongside them, yet another beautiful and evocative and thoughtful and funny moment in time between two people who, by now, feel as familiar as our own friends,” Rich said. “‘Before Sunrise’ is still the template, with its long-take walk-and-talk conversations and constant digressions, but the dynamic between them has only become more poignant over time. It is impossible to watch these two walk down a cobblestoned street without seeing them younger and falling in love in Vienna; the entirety of ‘Before Midnight’ carries that lump-in-the-throat nostalgia of looking at an old photograph of yourself and wondering how on Earth so much time has passed.”
Justin Chang of Variety concludes that the film beautifully captures the ups and downs of relationships and manages to outshine the first two films.
“One of the great movie romances of the modern era achieves its richest and fullest expression in ‘Before Midnight,’” Chang said. “Exquisite, melancholy, hilarious and cathartic, Richard Linklater's third walking-and-talking collaboration with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy turns a summer night's Grecian idyll into a typically digressive and cumulatively overwhelming essay on the joys and frustrations of (spoiler alert!) long-term commitment and parenthood.”
But not everyone is has responded positively to the film.
Damon Wise of the Guardian gives the film two stars and deems it “forced.”
“The second film ended so perfectly that you could be forgiven for thinking that Linklater had a real zinger up his sleeve for a third installment,” Wise said. “But, sadly, it seems the lightning has left the bottle.”
“There are moments of truth and comedy for sure, and many long-standing couples will recognize themselves at several points in this awkward night of reflection. They may not, however, identify with the relentless talking-for-talking's sake, and the main problem with ‘Before Midnight’ is that there is very little pause.”
Though the film has yet to secure a distributor, the overwhelmingly positive response to the film could mean a bidding war is on the horizon.
“Before Midnight” is set to screen at the Berlinale International Film Festival next month.
“Before Midnight” is set to premiere later this year.