Before Midnight - Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

With director Richard Linklater’s remarkable coming-of-age tale Boyhood the clear front-runner in this year’s awards season, this seems a timely moment to highlight one of his earlier triumphs, his 2013 film Before Midnight, which is showing in the wee hours on Sky Valentine tonight. After Midnight, as it happens…

Two decades after director Richard Linklater’s beguiling 1995 romance Before Sunrise and nine years after 2004’s equally charming Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke’s American writer Jesse and Julie Delpy’s French environmentalist Celine are still walking and talking in Before Midnight. And they are still captivating company for anyone who fell for them during their previous strolls.

Back in 1995 they were young travellers meeting on a Vienna-bound train and falling in love over the course of a night in the city. In 2004, with Jesse having won literary fame in the interim with an autobiographical novel based on that original encounter, they met again in a Paris bookshop and discovered that their magical chemistry remained intact.

Before Midnight

This time they’re in Greece, holidaying at a writers’ retreat in an idyllic villa in the Peloponnese. Now, though, they are no longer footloose bohemians but the parents of angelic twin daughters, on the cusp of middle age and facing the issue most movies ignore: how to keep love alive in a long-term relationship.

If your idea of a good romance is one that climaxes with a last-minute dash to the airport then Before Midnight probably won’t turn you on. The film begins at an airport – as Jesse says goodbye to his teenage American son – and what ensues during the following hundred minutes is deceptively casual, the couple’s chatter seemingly improvised but actually carefully scripted by Linklater, Delpy and Hawke and put on screen with subtle craft.

But if you have been with Jesse and Celine through the twists and turns, slips and stumbles of their romantic journey then their long, flowing, deceptively gripping conversations ripple with the realities of life.