When it comes to the Best Adapted Screenplay category at this year’s Oscars, there are really only two nominees that I would heavily consider, two screenplays that I thought did an excellent job of exploring their characters through events and dialogue: the charming Philomena, written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and the wondrous Before Midnight, scripted by Richard Linklater, along with the film’s two stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. While I’ve seen Philomena more recently and very much enjoyed it (especially the back and forth dialogue between Judi Dench and Steve Coogan), Before Midnight has stayed with me long after watching it, and as the third and final installment of Linklater’s epic romance trilogy, it’s a crowning achievement, not only as its own film but as a closing chapter to Jesse and Celine’s love story.
What makes the screenplay for Before Midnight this year’s Best Adapted Screenplay is simple: it’s real and it’s honest. In that realism and honesty, not everything is as seductively romantic as Before Sunrise or Before Sunset, but with Jesse and Celine now in their early forties, with two children of their own, it shouldn’t be. It’s easy to write about new, young love or to show the palpable attraction between two forgotten lovers reconnecting for the first time in almost a decade. However, to illustrate a true depth of connection, the real and raw reason why these two people would stay together for all these years, despite their differences and their bickering, is incredibly more difficult but also much more rewarding.
Look to no other scenes than the fight in the hotel between Jesse and Celine and their subsequent hopeful makeup afterward at the end of Before Midnight. There’s no certainty or assurance that they will still be together tomorrow, or in a year from now, or in a decade, which is something that is true for every relationship. No one can ever fully know what awaits them and their partner in the future, so what keeps us going? It’s the hope that it will all work out, the hope that love, despite everything else, will prevail in the end, the hope that the person who we know is right for us will be able to make us laugh or smile at something funny and stupid, allowing us to forget about all the terrible things we just yelled at each other only moments before. It’s that real, honest hope that Before Midnight’s script taps into, and that’s why it’s a film that stays with you long after you’ve watched it. That’s why it deserves to win Best Adapted Screenplay.