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Originally published Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 3:04 PM

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‘Before Midnight’: Couple is still fascinating in last of trilogy

A movie review of “Before Midnight,” the last in Richard Linklater’s relationship trilogy (after 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2004’s “Before Sunset”) that catches up with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) nine years after the middle fil

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3.5 stars

‘Before Midnight,’ with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Walter Lassally, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. Directed by Richard Linklater, from a screenplay by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy. 108 minutes. Rated R for sexual content/nudity and language. Several theaters.

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When we last saw Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in 2004’s “Before Sunset,” the middle film of Richard Linklater’s relationship trilogy, they were walking the streets of Paris, falling back in love nine years after their first chance meeting on a train. Now, in “Before Midnight,” we check in with the couple again, another nine years later: They’re still together, in their 40s, raising two young children, living in Europe (here, vacationing in Greece), still walking, talking — and arguing.

What makes “Before Midnight” so powerful is the emotional impact of those conversations: Jesse and Celine, shot in long unbroken takes, seem like a couple we might know, and their problems seem utterly real. In this film, we see the impact of that idyllic re-meeting in Paris: Jesse, then married, left his wife for Celine, and in doing so gave up his son. Now, seeing the boy (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) only for vacation, he feels terribly guilty. (“I left him behind, and I want to go get him,” he tells Celine, anguished.) Celine, a passionate woman with a simmering, frequently overflowing anger, has her own issues about raising children (Jesse, she feels, doesn’t do enough), about aging, about work and about love.

And so we watch them talk, on a sunny afternoon that softens into a long evening and, finally, an epic nighttime argument in a hotel room that’s so vividly acted it seems as if we’re invading Jesse and Celine’s privacy; it almost seems more polite to look away. Though “Before Midnight” is often uncomfortable to watch, it’s never less than mesmerizing — and ultimately, a joy to walk with this prickly but fascinating couple again.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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