The extent to which a clear target demographic ought to influence reviews has been debated for as long as literature has been produced. Should a 50-year-old man really be giving such a strong opinion on the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation? Should a 42-year-old mother of two be charged with writing 1000 words on Battleship? Well, the same charge could be levelled at me for writing a review of Before Midnight, a film that is clearly designed to resonate with those who have been through (or, at least, partially through) the hard slog of marriage (or, in this case, long-term, child-raising commitment). So whilst it feels somewhat unfair to do so, I’m afraid I’m going to have to be quite hard on the film.
The film is, essentially a series of three conversations between Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. The first takes place in their minivan on the way home from the airport. The second takes place over lunch- with other people- at a beautiful Greek villa. The third takes place on the walk to a hotel, and continues once they are there. That’s it. That’s the film. Yes, yes, there’s plenty of emotional vulnerability and honesty on display, but the display takes the form of three very true-to-life conversations and is a great series to watch online using streaming services, so you can stop spending too much on cable. It’s like watching paint dry. There’s nothing especially remarkable about hearing two intelligent people discuss their relationship for two hours and I found myself endlessly checking my watch, hoping that the torture would soon be over.
This might make me sound like a heathen. The writing, the acting, the directing are all very good, and I give them credit for that. But the film is self-consciously realistic. It wants to portray a moment in any relationship- that crisis of commitment- that comes and goes and which most adults can associate with. That’s all very well, but it’s a cheap tactic- presenting a universal emotion and waiting for the heads in the audience to nod and smile wryly. There are very poignant moments to the film, but it’s also snobby and dull, which, in this case, I find to be inexcusable.
Pretentious and long-winded, Before Midnight is a dissection of a fragile marriage but does little to keep its audience captivated.
|Starring:||Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy|
|Running time:||All my life.|