Before Midnight (Blu-ray)

October 18, 2013 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

If you’ve not seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, I’d advise you to stop right here and check those movies out.  While this review might give away potential spoilers, I think it’s somewhat…right to have viewed those movies prior to reading this review.  Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll say that my history with this particular trio of films dates way back to 1995 when Before Sunrise hit theaters. A lot of has changed for me, the characters in these films and the world in general in the last 18 years and the reality of life. Things change.  That’s a hard thing to accept.  I think it’s human nature to look back on something and want to have it again. To be greedy.  To undo things that can’t be undone.  That’s how I felt when watching this final installment and, in some ways, feeling like I’ve grown up with Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine.  I think, in one respect, I’ve identified with these characters is that they’re essentially the same age as me.  In Before Sunrise, they were of college age, Before Sunset they were in their early 30’s and now, in Before Midnight are married with children.  In a way, this has paralleled my life (and countless others’ I’m sure) and, in one regard, is why these films are among my favorites.

Nine years has passed since we last saw Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy).  They’re now married with twin daughters and Jesse’s son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is set to enter High School.  Hank has spent the Summer with them in Greece and is heading back home to Chicago.  This gets Hank to thinking about his relationship with his son, but he’s got other commitments with his wife and twin daughters of his own.  The family is in Greece spending time with a colleague of Jesse’s, though with the Summer winding down, it’s time to get back to real life.  As Celine and Jesse discuss their life, Jesse’s concerns about his son and their life in general, we start to see that this is a different film than the first two.  In a scene that I’ll call “The Argument” it’s revealed that one might not still love the other one.  For fans of this series, this is something that’s hard to take and it initially turned me off of the movie.  As with the two previous installments, there’s no real definitive end point, it can actually be classified as “walking and talking.”  But it does get us thinking…what’s next for Jesse and Celine?

A certain member of my review staff will, undoubtedly, scrutinize every single word of this review and I may or may not meet his expectations.  I’d even sent him a message the other day upon my first viewing of this movie telling him that I didn’t care for it. He disagreed. I then listened to the commentary track, reflected on it for a day and then re-watched the movie.  It hit me differently the second time around.  I think, in a way, we project ourselves into these characters and this movie doesn’t share the same upbeat tone of the first two.  This isn’t about falling in love or even the re-connection or rediscovering someone.  Jesse and Celine are married, they’ve got children, there aren’t a whole lot of milestones left for them except to grow old and die together.  They talk and have conversations, yes, but it’s the “married” type in which Celine asks open ended questions and Jesse’s answer isn’t ever satisfactory.  As a married man myself for nearly four years now, I know these conversations well and they are indicative of a married life.  I’d wager that others out there know what I’m referring to.  Before Midnight, on its surface, is the same film as the first two.  But if you dig deeper, it’s probably the most realistic film of the three.  Why?  It’s hard to explain.  I’d say it’s the natural progression of life in general and living it through Jesse and Celine’s eyes is a remarkable thing indeed.

Video: How’s it look?

Before Midnight shows up on Blu-ray looking rather divine.  The 1.78:1 AVC HD image is simply saturated in the sun-drenched locale of  Greece.  It’s been nearly a decade since we’ve last seen Jesse and Celine and it shows. Literally.  While Hawke still has all of his hair, he’s got some crow’s feet, Delpy has a few laugh lines and signs of aging as well.  But hey, people grow old and it’s not until after the previous installments are viewed, that we realize how much one person has aged.  Having said that, the image is warm and rich, earthy tones abound and detail is pristine.  I’m reminded of other titles like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Under the Tuscan Sun when I viewed this.  A very nice-looking effort.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Not that it’ll be the demo disc for your system, but Before Midnight does feature a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. But anyone who’s seen any of these three movies will know that the majority of the sound is dialogue – and lots of it.  I’ve got nothing wrong with that in these films as they propel the movies onward.  Vocals are strong and well-centered with Hawke’s voice coming through nicely and Delpy’s soft, Frecnch-laded accent complimenting it.  Surrounds are used sparingly, but enough so they won’t be missed.  The front stage handles the rest of the mix with no problem whatsoever.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Any true fan of this franchise will be happy to know that we finally get a commentary track with Hawke, Delpy and Director Richard Linklater.  The previous two movies were essentially featureless, so this does come as a most welcome addition.

  • Audio Commentary with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater – Finally!  The first two discs were rather featureless and now we finally get a commentary track from these three.  All three helped write the movie and were heavily involved and their comments echo that involvement.  I wasn’t really felt wanting anything more after listening to this as the trio are very active and all offer up some very heartfelt remarks and comments.  Truly a must listen.
  • Revisiting Jesse and Celine – In this all to brief segment we get interviews with Linklater, Hawke and Delpy as they somewhat take a trip down memory lane.  We learn about this new film (which wasn’t even thought of until a couple of years ago), the impact these movies have had on them personally and professionally and a few tidbits about the shoot (like the script was finished 6 days prior to shooting).
  • Q & A with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater – The most robust supplement other than the audio commentary can be found here.  And this was very interesting with a literal Q & A session and the trio offering up some very candid comments about the three films.  Like the commentary, this is a must watch.

A Timeline of the Before… films

[history title=”Before Midnight” day=”2013″ src=”/images/misc/beforemidnight.png”]Jesse (Ethan Hawke) attempts to maintain a relationship with Hank, his teenage son from his first marriage, but their bond is strained even though Hank has just spent the summer with his dad and step-family. Meanwhile, Celine (Julie Delpy) must make a difficult decision about her career.[/history]

[history title=”Before Sunset” day=”2004″ src=”/images/misc/beforesunset.png”]Jesse (Ethan Hawke) has written a book about the encounter. He reunites with Celine (Julie Delpy) in Paris. Before his flight home, he joins Celine for a picturesque walk. At first, about their lives and their relationships, then about their lingering feelings for one another.

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[history title=”Before Sunrise” day=”1995″ start=”yes” src=”/images/misc/beforesunrise.png”]Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American travelling through Europe. He meets Celine (Julie Delpy), a French student. They explore the city of Vienna, walking and talking into the wee hours of the night and slowly falling in love as Jesse’s return to the U.S. tick away.

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