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Before Midnight (AF)

9/10

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

(And: Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Walter Lassally, Ariane Labed, Yannis Papadopoulos, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Panos Koronis)

Director: Richard Linklater

In 1995, co-writer-director Richard Linklater introduced us to (then) 20-year-old lovers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Vienna in Before Sunrise, which managed to be pretentious, tedious and happily forgettable all in one.

30-year-old Delpy, Hawke and Linklater were back again and equally irritating, hollow and equally unmemorable in Paris in Before Sunset. Understandably, then, I approached the now 40-year-old couple’s latest screen outing expecting the same underwhelming combination of dreary dialogue against attractive locations.

I was wrong.

It’s third time lucky for Linklater and the stars, here are co-credited with the director with the screenplay and dialogue. The setting here is Greece where Hawke and Delpy reunite after Hawke has seen off his son at the airport in Kalamata.

From here on Delpy – who informs Hawke “I’m stuck with an American teenager” – the couple argue, bicker and talk up a storm, notably in a brilliantly written, performed and sustained sequence as they drive through attractively photographed (Christos Voudouris) Greek countryside. Happily this time the dialogue is sharp, witty and credible and convincingly performed.

In fact, sparkling and perfectly performed dialogue is the name of the game here. Hawke and Delpy couldn’t be better or more natural. Like ‘Pygmalion’ before them, the cardboard characters of the first two films have become entirely credible and engagingly flawed human beings. Even the (mandatory?) sex scene is convincing.

Before Midnight is visually splendid and, better still, deserves to be heard as well as seen.

Alan Frank

USA/Greece 2013. UK Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics. Colour by FotoKem.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 21 Jun 2013