Movies of the 2010s: #3 of 20
I'm the same age as Jesse in Richard Linklater's Before series. When Before Sunrise came out in 1995, I was in my early 20s, had recently backpacked across Europe, held certain romantic notions, and was probably pretty annoying to a lot of people. I loved the movie, I crushed on Celine, and I saw Jesse as a romanticized, idealized indie movie version of myself.
Because of the perfect, ambiguous ending of Before Sunrise, I morally objected to the 2004 sequel Before Sunset. the mere existence of it, regardless of its quality, spoiled the magic of the original by rudely answering its lingering question. It was well-done, and smartly knowing, but also dispiriting and unnecessary.
I may not have ever watched Before Midnight if not for the PopGap project. I'm too personally invested in the first movie in the series, and the sequels hurt me.
Now, in Before Midnight, Jesse and Celine are in their 40s, in a sort of common-law marriage in Europe, with twin daughters. Jesse's American teenage son has just spent the summer with them before returning home, and his departure starts a ripple effect of angst, regret, and division that grows as the day wears on into night.
Before Midnight is brilliantly written and perfectly acted, just like the other two movies in this series, and features a couple of indelibly real and heartbreaking moments that are immensely worthwhile. It's also a complete bummer to those of us who love Before Sunrise for its youthful romanticism. Yes, it's a realistic evolution of the story, but it's also kind of a jerk move, and I wish it didn't exist.