Top 10 films of 2013: Before Midnight

Feature Simon Brew
24 Dec 2013 - 23:07

Richard Linklater wraps up a remarkable trilogy with Before Midnight, which came in at number 4 in our countdown of the year

Over the past few weeks, Den of Geek writers have been voting for their favourite films of the year. The votes were weighted, calculated, and compiled into our top ten. And here, at number XX, is Before Midnight...

4. Before Midnight

This article contains spoilers.

There aren't, in truth, that many people I meet in real life who have seen Before Midnight. The last time I found someone, the conversation went like this:

Them: "I couldn't stand Before Midnight. All they did was talk for the entire film".
Me: "I loved Before Midnight. All they did was talk for the entire film".

We elected to chat about something else at that point.

Richard Linklater's possible conclusion to his Before... trilogy certainly has no intention of recruiting those put off by the style of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Granted, there are a few extra characters who pop up in Before Midnight, and the opening sequence in the airport is a little different to what we've seen before. But it's not long before the two key characters - Julie Delpy's Celine and Ethan Hawke's Jesse - are back chuntering away.

And it's differing conversations they're having this time. Set against the backdrop of Greece, and picking up nine years after the last film, the romance between the pair has given way to liberal doses of real life. Two sleeping children in the back of the car for a start, but also the kind of issues that face a couple as they hit their 40s.

There's an argument that Judd Apatow's This Is 40 was covering not dissimilar themes as well, although as movies, they couldn't, tonally at least, be much further apart. I liked This Is 40 more than most, but Before Midnight is clearly the better film. From the opening to the end, Linklater, Hawke and Delpy leave you in no doubt that they know exactly what they're doing, and their conversations prove as gripping as any expensive action sequence that made it to the screen all year. Jesse's speech about how he was there on "game day" is still one of the highlights for me, although there are plenty of others.

Before Midnight does shuffle the tone of the films slightly. If there was an upbeat nature to the first two, this one feels a little more melancholy. Reality has bitten, and whilst there's still no shortage of humour, the cracks in the previously all-but-idyllic relationship are very much starting to show. Jesse's life in particular is torn, which has ramifications for them both. And when the credits roll on this latest hour and a half in the company of Jesse and Celine, there's once more a sense that you really don't quite know where they'll be in nine years time. Could the next Before... film see the couple separate, and trying to come back together, or will Linklater quietly draw the curtain now?

Whatever happens next, the sad fact is that Before Midnight is likely to be overlooked again for some serious, high profile awards attention. It's scandalous, but then moaning about awards inherently contributions to the ecosystem of said awards in the first place. The Before... trilogy requires no gongs on its mantelpiece to be regarded as one of the best trilogies in the history of cinema after all. And I mean those words: you can count on very few fingers the number of trilogies where each film hits such a high, consistent quality. Most lose it at chapter three. The Before... trilogy however gets even richer with its third film.

Choosing which is the best of the Before... films is, too, a pretty pointless job, because they blend so effortlessly well together. And in Jesse and Celine, there's a real, down to earth couple at the heart of the story that anyone who pens a love story in the future should be forced to study for many, many hours. Not that that would be a hardship. Before Sunrise was great, Before Sunset was great, and Before Midnight very much continues that tradition.

It might get you heading to the travel agents to pick up a brochure on Greece, too...

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