Movies & TV / Columns

From Under A Rock: Before Midnight

July 14, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Before Midnight Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
From Under A Rock: Before Midnight  


There’s something really satisfying about introducing someone to a movie series that you’ve loved and seeing them react the same way. Aaron made Michael wait for months between viewings of Richard Linklater’s “Before Trilogy”, but we are finally here.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Magic Mike. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Before Midnight.

Before Midnight
Released: June 14th, 2013
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
Ethan Hawke as Jesse
Julie Delpy as Céline

Aaron Hubbard: Michael basically begged me to finally get around to this one. We’ve covered the first two and it’s time to end this trilogy.

Michael Ornelas: I adored the first two films. The chemistry between Delpy and Hawke is undeniable and the simplicity of the script allowed me to just hone in on the nuances. The third movie is where that all came tumbling down for me, emotionally…but the film was still spectacular.
A Lot Changes in Ten Years
Aaron: The immediate notable difference between this film and Before Sunset is that the second film was focused on recreating the magic of the first movie (in terms of feel), while this one is setting itself apart. Jesse and Céline are another nine years older, which means they are several years into a marriage, have two kids of their own, and Jesse’s son from his previous marriage is also about nine or ten. So they spent a lot less of their time alone. The first movie was about them ignoring distractions to get to know each other, the second one had them talking almost exclusively to each other at the height of their intimacy. This one shows how all of of life’s distractions get in the way of a relationship as it isn’t until about halfway through the film that they are alone with each other.

Michael: And when they are finally alone, it isn’t what I wanted. It’s hollow. Any chemistry they seem to have feels routine and the worst of both characters come out. It seems that the very qualities that drew them to one another in the previous installments are points of resentment here. It’s heartbreaking, but that’s marriage, I guess? I’m not married so I can’t speak to it, but I’ve seen many marriages fail or “succeed” in that they’re still together but probably shouldn’t be. Of course there are couples that are perfect together and I know those too. But in this movie, I thought that’s what we had with Jesse and Céline, but I was wrong.

Aaron: I don’t think any two people are genuinely “perfect” for each other. I think it’s more about being able to put another person’s needs before your own, realizing when that’s the right thing to do and when it isn’t. In fairness to Jesse and Céline, they both have very strong motives for what are, unfortunately, incompatible goals. Jesse wants to live in the States, closer to his son, while Céline wants to stay in Europe for her dream job. While there’s a lot of other things pulling them apart, I think it’s this big decision that gives the movie a lot of its weight, because it’s impossible to side with one or the other. Especially when they are being awful to each other. This movie honestly feels like watching my parents argue, and it makes for one of the most achingly painful experiences in film (that’s still enjoyable on some level).
Love Is Dead
Michael: I’ve had long relationships crumble before. It’s never in an explosive fashion out of nowhere. It’s the subtle jabs that we take at one another to bring each other down that destroy it ultimately. As soon as I heard the tone of Delpy’s dialogue, I knew the couple was doomed. Which sucks, because I loved them. I loved everything about their relationship in the first two movies — the perfect romance. But with kids and an inability to put absolute individualism aside, the two grew apart and it was heartbreaking watching that. For the first two films, there are almost no other characters on screen. These two are all we need. In the third installment, there are several side characters and it feels like it’s a statement on the later stages of relationships. You give your attention to outside stimuli and grow to resent the person you’re with for “tethering you down.” Now I know I sound super pessimistic (I actually haven’t gone through a break-up recently, so I’m not projecting), but SPOILERS….I’m upset that they seemingly stayed together at the end of the film.

Aaron: I’m not, though I admit it does seem like a slight cop-out. But it’s in keeping with the previous movies. They are always arguing the logical reasons for why they shouldn’t get together, or get back together, or stay in a marriage. And they come really, really close each time to making the “logical” choice and never seeing each other again. Here, they are off the deep end and it looks like it’s all over. But somehow Jesse finds a way to make a big move to try and save their relationship. Does it work? Who’s to say. If this movie teaches us anything, it’s that nothing is certain. But love is worth taking those big damn risks on. At least, this movie series sure thinks so.

Michael: Yeah I think it was a little too off the deep end but I can agree with your point. Make the risks, fight for the relationship, and here’s hoping. It seems idealistic to end the movie like this, but despite what I named this topic, I like to believe that through it all, love is not dead.
Misery Loves Company
Aaron: On balance, I liked Before Midnight the least of the trilogy the first time I watched it all. And not because of the melancholy and uncomfortable scenes. It’s because a large part of the middle section is at a friend’s house where Jesse and Céline are surrounded by friends and having conversations away from each other and just… being around while other people talk. That’s not what I wanted from this series, dammit! But upon second viewing, I picked up more on how this ties into the theme of the movie. Each of the three couples around them are in different phases of their relationships, and the oldest woman there is alone without her beloved husband. So it makes thematic sense while also prolonging the agony as these two have to wait even longer to have a real conversation with each other.

Michael: Not to toot my own horn, but I actually picked up on those representations across the couples and it made the dinner scene super interesting, although still painful. It’s here where Jesse and Céline matter the least as they should just take a look around and open their ears just the same. There are so many different types of couples — every one develops their own unique dynamic…and we can see it here that our lead couple have shifted between dynamics throughout the years. It gives a fluidity to romance that may be tough to swallow. But as the traditional vows go, you take your partner “for better and for worse.” Speaking of vows, they’re still not actually married here and that’s super interesting to me.

Aaron: Huh. Somehow I didn’t catch up on that. But it makes sense, these two have deep-seated commitment issues. I think the most interesting thing about this is how it captures the way we behave differently in public. When we are alone with our significant other, we might be more blunt and honest about our feelings, while in public we bite our tongues at first before getting passive aggressive. That’s way worse in my opinion. The way people treat each other when they are around other people may actually be more revealing, and I appreciate that Linklater took time to see this couple through that lens.

Michael: This got an intense emotional response from me throughout most of the film. I disagree with the ending from a realist’s point of view, but most couples try to make it work longer than they should, so it’s hard to knock it for that. There were a few tedious scenes early on (the authors’ proverbial circle jerk at the start of the movie stands out to me), but the performances were top notch and again the trilogy delivers. Not the A+ I gave the first two, but close.


Aaron: I was almost tempted to give this Top Marks again, as much like the first two it’s an absolute masterclass in realistic acting and top flight dialogue. Even if it’s extremely sad throughout, that wouldn’t be enough to knock it down. But man… that scene with the authors talking about Jesse’s books really did annoy me.


Michael: That ripped my heart out of my chest.

Aaron: I think what’s most annoying is I didn’t even cry. I just felt numb for most of it.

What is the most emotionally taxing film that you love to watch?

Next week:

Michael: I’ve only seen my next pick one time, and it was 12 years ago…but it’s a stunning visual work from Guillermo Del Toro, so I’m excited to watch it again.
Aaron: I think my heart skipped a beat just now. I’ve been meaning to catch this and then… not catching it because you put it on the schedule. I am beyond hyped.

Michael: Get ready. It’s got some harsh moments…

What’s your favorite dark fantasy film?

E-mail us at [email protected]
Follow us! @FUARockPodcast
Like us on Facebook!
And follow Michael on Twitter! @TouchButtPro

Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, T2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator, Before Sunrise, Evil Dead II, Planet of the Apes, Wet Hot American Summer, Tombstone, The Core, American Graffiti, León: The Professional, Steel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Logan, Tusk, Ghost in the Shell, Twin Peaks, The Artist, The Thing, Little Shop of Horrors, Day of the Dead, Them!, Borat, The Handmaiden, Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, Watchmen, Metropolis, A Knight’s Tale, Children of Men, It’s a Wonderful Life, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Contact, Before Sunset, Bernie, Edge of Tomorrow, Boogie Nights, M, Ip Man, Jessica Jones (Season 1), Flash Gordon, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clone High, Oldboy, Bowfinger, Caché, Battlefield Earth, Hero, High Plains Drifter, Rashomon, The Master of the Flying Guillotine, Vertigo, Event Horizon, Hot Fuzz, Blue Velvet, Rear Window, Magic Mike, Before Midnight

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 1,100 films. Recent reviews include Blockers, A Wrinkle in Time and Ant-Man and the Wasp.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
One of the best trilogies of all time concludes with another fantastic movie, though Michael and Aaron prefer the first two movies a little bit more. That's partly because Before Midnight is a sobering look at the problems that crop up in a long-term relationship, as Jesse and Céline have started to bring out the worst in each other. But Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy still have crackling chemistry as performers, and most of the script by Hawke, Delpy, and director Richard Linklater is pure poetry. Obviously check out the first two movies first, but don't skip out on the conclusion.