Dominika reviews the next ‘Before’ and is impressed.
Before Midnight is the third film in Richard Linklater’s trilogy that began with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). We continue following the relationship between Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), as the film examines whether the reality of ‘true love’ can match our expectations of it. The fact that Delpy and Hawke co-wrote the film with Linklater adds another layer of authenticity.
At the end of the last film, Before Sunset, we were left wondering if Jesse was going to stay with Celine in Paris or return back home to the US. In Before Midnight, we find the couple, nine years later, with two children (twin girls) on a summer holiday in Greece. Jesse is an accomplished author, having published a few books. Celine is an environmental lobbyist and has just been offered her dream job.
Like the previous two films, Before Midnight is mostly a long conversation between Celine and Jesse over the course of one day, with a leisurely Mediterranean lunch with friends serving as punctuation. As they sit around and discuss the film’s central themes; love, fidelity, sex, and the differences between men and women, the other couples serve to counterpoint Celine and Jesse’s relationship.
There is a real pleasure in reconnecting with these characters after all these years. Because of my age, I have watched these films almost in sync with my own life – the start of their relationship in Before Sunrise coincided roughly with mine – now my husband and I also have two children and are nearing our 40’s. Nine years pass between each film (within the films as well as in real time), and each time the next film comes out, I cannot help but reflect and compare our own lives in relation to these characters who seem to be living their own lives alongside us.
Linklater explores the different shades and qualities of a relationship in its varying stages over the course of the three films. What it’s like to fall in love, how does love develop and then how to sustain it as the relationship matures. What happens after “and they lived happily ever after”… well, real life happens.
“The first two films deal so much with romantic projection,” Hawke tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross, “and [with] the third one we felt like we really couldn’t do that again. We needed to try to address the harder, more difficult aspects of daily life and what it means when you get what you want, and what you do with what you want when you have it, and do you still want it?”
What has always been interesting in all of these three films is the treatment of time – we follow Celine and Jesse over the course of a few hours on one day, with minimal interruptions. It takes a good scriptwriter to strike the right tone between keeping the dialogue flowing for two hours and making it sound authentic without it seeming contrived. We are there in the present with the couple, witnessing their relationship play out. And while this may have been romantic and exciting in the first two films, it is tougher going to watch the bickering of the less than idealistic, almost middle aged couple. While some may be disappointed with the more melancholy tone of this third film, I did enjoy it, particularly because it is not something we often see on screen. It is precisely the type of film I am always complaining that no one ever makes. Here, we see a glimpse of the dynamics of a real relationship at play- not the usual glorified beginnings of a relationship, the romantic wedding fairytales and the comedy driven moments of becoming first time parents.
The main conflict in the film occurs as the day ends, and Celine and Jesse end up in a hotel room on a romantic night out organized for them by their friends. Instead of romance, we see old hurts, disappointments and conflicting desires surface. It is a well-delivered scene and we get real insight into the complexities of their relationship. How do they balance love and desire with compromise, disappointment, lack of quality time together due to the demands of parenting, and reassess their direction in life as they approach the middle age years?
All three films are about the turning points of a relationship – and Before Midnight leaves us wondering what will become of Celine and Jesse. As they stare at the sun setting over the water, “still there … still there … gone”, we feel the fragility of their bond.
This film is intelligent and philosophical, with witty dialogue, great performances and nuanced direction. Highly recommended!
Dominika Ferenz – Moving Pictures
Dominika is a filmmaker, photographer and mother of two girls. She studied film and photography at UTS, completing a Bachelor of Communications (Honours). She now spends her time chasing the perfect shot or her girls and often both at the same time. You can see her photographs and films on her blog dominikaferenz.com or check out her company, ikonfilm at ikonfilm.com.au
Life Balance = Laughter. Yoga. Solitude.