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Sundance ’13: Day Five

'Before Midnight' clocks in as the best of Sundance
Marjorie Baumgarten, 12:15pm, Sat. Jan. 26, 2013

Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight is the best movie I’ve seen at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival – and it’s not a case of hometown loyalty that has me saying this.

The Austin-based filmmaker has capped the trilogy (which began with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) with a film that’s captivating and completely satisfying. Written with the film’s co-stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Before Midnight drops in on the trilogy’s lovers, Jesse and Celine, 20 years after their first meeting. It answers the question left hanging at the end of the second film: Does Jesse miss his plane back to the States and stay in Paris with Celine? Spoiler alerts be damned: The answer is yes, but now their relationship includes parenting their twin daughters, the extra-continental parenting of Jesse’s son who lives in Chicago with his ex-wife, and the rigors of aging and living complementary lives.

As with the other films, Before Midnight is rich with conversation, much of it again peripatetic, and supported with camerawork that is wordlessly expressive. What impresses most about the film, however, is its naturalism. Long conversations come across as if their words and feelings were being conveyed for the first time. Delpy and Hawke are brilliant, and Hawke continues the curious phenomenon of being never greater than when appearing in a Linklater movie. Also appearing in the movie is former Austinite Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg), who is also one of the film’s co-producers.

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