our favorite ’90s onscreen couple is back—again.

by kirsten stamn

There were two words on the lips of the massive crowd waiting in line outside the Tribeca Film Festival on Monday evening: Before Midnight. Richard Linklater's final installment in the film trilogy, starring a seemingly perpetually youthful Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, depicts what happens after the fairy tale romance has played out from his previous installments Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. A hint: It's not always perfect.

The main characters, Celine (played by Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke), are now in a committed relationship and have two young daughters. They're spending the summer in Greece with Jesse's son and, over the course of a day, you watch the two do what they do best: talk. Keeping in touch with the previous two films, Before Midnight is centered around endless conversations--and fights--about what it means to be in love and all the compromises that come with it.

This isn't really a light, happy-go-lucky film, despite the trailer's peppy music and scenes of easy living in Greece. But, thankfully, the characters of Celine and Jesse are essentially the same as they were in the prequels (her intelligent neuroticism offset by Jesse's easygoing adoration). Though it's kept its humor and laugh-out-loud moments (and there were quite a few), they were offset by the couple's constant debates and struggle to coexist. There's a definite grace to it; without the veil of romanticism, the film truly shows the good--and bad--that comes with being in love. It draws you in, making you feel like no time has passed, so you're surprised when the perfect, most sublime ending scene fades to black. You leave with the feeling that all the most important things are worth the effort.

The film opens nationwide May 24th.