What happens ten years down the line after the romance has faded, the kids are had, and the secret resentments toil and bubble? You can still make each other laugh, you can still work in concert, but that passion and spark is a warm glowing sameness. What's the thing about the frog in the pot? If you turn the water up over time you can boil the creature without a problem? Before Midnight is the conclusion to a romance at its boiling point.
Celine and Jesse have been together nine years, living in Europe with their two daughters. We open on Jesse sending his son back to America, opening the gates to a discussion about moving to be near the boy or staying so Celine can have a job. It's clear from the jump that neither of these are the real issue, just place holders for pyramids of resentment built because even with the most honest couples that's just what happens.
Linklater says this trilogy is about three things: what might be, could be, and is. Sunrise is hope, sunset is contentment, and Midnight is the reality of continual life. Everything is built up and lasts, on solid foundations, but there's bats in the belfry and the pipes leak and nobody knows what that smell is in the second bedroom but it's for guests so it's no big deal.
I just dropped off into a "relationships like a house" metaphor. Sorry about that.
I may have mentioned in previous reviews of this trilogy how much I love these movies. This really is the perfect capstone and ironically the one with the most clear force of opposition. This series has been about following this couple as they fell in love and then re-found each other. Now, they contend with each other after not being alone for a long time (kids, ami-I don't have kids). They enjoy each other again, talk and laugh, then start telling the truth. Shared history and truth are subjective things and ripe for opposition, and even the form their opposition takes comes to bear. It's a wonderful portrait of two people wrestling with one another and coming out the other end knowing the journey is worth it.
If you can find it in your library, check it out. If not, rent the damn thing the next time it rains. Have a day watching two people share an rocky road. It's really worth it.