Before Midnight takes up the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) ten years later. They’re now married, living in Paris and holidaying in Greece, where the film is set over a single afternoon and evening. It’s far more sombre than the previous two films, both of which were alive with the sense of possibility and futurity. That hasn’t entirely vanished here, but there’s an inevitable shift in tone, if only because the conversations we’re witnessing are no longer privileged, singular or exemplary in any real way; unlike the frisson of witnessing characters converse for the first time, as in Before Sunrise, or the first time in a decade, as in Before Sunset, these are characters who’ve now been conversing for a decade. Perhaps that’s why there’s less of a sense of splendid isolation as well – this film has more conversation with other people than the previous two combined, to the point where there are moments where Hawke and Delpy almost dissolve into something resembling an ensemble cast. Still, the most compelling moments are the extended conversations which, wandering through ruins as evening falls, partake of an almost neorealist melancholy, relegating 1994 to the annals of deep history. In essence, these conversations anatomise an argument, from its most incipient stages – stages that are possibly only visible to the couple themselves, or those who’ve been haunted by them for some twenty years – to its climax and denouement, in something like the mood and momentum of Tape. That doesn’t necessarily make for a miserable film – in fact, it’s the funniest film in the series, but the humour is dependent on a certain irreverence for the first two films, a slightly spiteful puncturing of their romantic dreams and longings, to the point where it feels like the best move for these characters is to spend some time apart, and learn how to miss each other again. And so there’s something oddly optimistic about the fact that the whole film moves towards Jesse’s departure for France, as well as the more general prospect of resuming a long-distance relationship – it’s that dawning possibility of not talking properly or regularly for a decade that allows them to talk properly for the first time in a decade, opening up some much-needed breathing space and silence before the next part of their story.