In 1995, in Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy met in Vienna and parted under the romantic idea that if they were intended for each other, they would meet again.
In 2004, in Before Sunset, they did meet again and decided they were, indeed, meant for each other.
And now, in Before Midnight, we find them after nine years together, forced by circumstances to evaluate that decision.
They do a pile of thinking, but actor-writers Hawke and Delpy, and writer-director Richard Linklater, leave it up to you to decide the issue.
It's not a matter of fault. But Hawke, for just one thing, didn't realize how deep his feelings of guilt about deserting his American family would run. And Delpy, for just one other thing, didn't realize that winning an important point did not persuade her conscience that she had been right.
And this time, Hawke and Delpy aren't the only arguers-- the best scene in Before Midnight has three or four couples, just in conversation, telling stories of personal entanglements and the consequences of personal decisions, and there is no judge to decide where the right lies in any case.
My impression is that as they react to one stimulus after another, neither Hawke nor Delpy is consistent in argument or emotion. In this respect, Before Midnight is as realistic as any movie I can think of.
Before Midnight did not persuade me that the game of love is a good gamble, but I suspect that most people would disagree on that. The important thing is that it present the stakes, if not the rewards.
It's almost unique among American movies in that.