For the third and final time we join Celine and Jesse as their relationship evolves. Now they have been together for nine years and have two children to show for it. Of course, being with the person they love has not made their lives perfect. Far from it, an it is accepting that life can still be imperfect even when you are in love that drives the narrative of this film.
The film elapses in almost exactly real time so we ease back into the lives of the characters slowly and see the tensions that will take up the rest of the film in due time without it becoming tiresome exposition. Given that a fight between Jesse and Celine takes up the second half of the film, it is amazing how effectively the script communicates their enduring love. Even as they fight it is almost loving, and they are completely connected
The character development between the second two film is nowhere near as believable as that between the first two. While Ethan Hawke’s Jesse has grown to be more mature and a capable father, despite a penchant for childish humour, Julie Delpy’s Celine is more neurotic than ever. She seems to have become more immature and demanding as the character got older. About halfway through I realised that anyone seeing only this film would probably wonder how this sweet, caring and intelligent man ended up with this whiny, rude and abrasive woman in the first place.
Unfortunately this bizarre character development took away from the film as a whole which was generally much better than Julie Delpy’s performance. However I found that the film lacked the lightness of touch that was so charming in its predecessors. In many places the themes felt overwrought and obvious, bordering on predictable in some cases and the ending was rather hamfisted compared to the bold and enchanting ending of Before Sunset.
In the end I wanted to forgive the film it’s faults, it is a wonderful conclusion to the trilogy and shows that love is not an end point; it’s just a bonus you can find along the way. However, I don’t believe that it lives up to the quality of the previous two films.