Before Midnight Review
If you haven't laid eyes to Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy, you are definitely missing out. I don't think there is a better trilogy that showcases the passion, love, devotion, frustration and anxiety involved in a romantic relationship. Relationships always need work, and I think they change once in awhile. I can definitely say that the relationship of almost 4 years with my own sweetheart has changed over that time, and I think with each year our time together improves. Our love strengthens, we learn more about each other, and we enjoy more life together. It is an overpowering experience in the best way possible.
I think this trilogy has more to say about the wonders and difficulties of love than any other movie(s) made. This is a set of films for people who don't like romantic movies. Each film does not follow the standard conventions of the "romantic movie" yet it speaks volumes about the subject. The trilogy follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Deply). The first film entitled "Before Sunrise" was released in 1995. Jesse meets Celine for the first time on a train to Budapest to Paris. After much conversation on the train, Jesse convinces Celine to walk around the streets of Vienna. At the end of the day, they don't exchange numbers, but they plan to meet each other six months later. In 2004, "Before Sunset" was released. Nine years have passed, and Jesse has written a book about his time in Vienna. He is married now, doing a book signing in Europe, when he meets Celine in Paris. He's got to catch a plane back to America in the morning, so they only have one day together in Paris. What each movie does is effectively capture the furious fire and passion when two people meet and become interested in each other, how they become lovesick over each other, how they fight and how they swoon over each other. They are two powerful films, and so is the third.
It's been almost 20 years since "Before Sunrise," and Ethan Hawke is in Greece walking his son (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) through the airport to his gate. After a long, fun summer, Jesse's son is going back to his Mom in Chicago. Jesse is heartbroken that he doesn't get to see his son as much as he'd like. Jesse is in Greece and his son in Chicago and the boy's mother makes things purposefully difficult for Jesse. When he goes back to the car we see Celine in the passengers seat and twin daughters in the back. Turns out that 9 years ago, Jesse didn't make that flight.
This isn't the Jesse and Celine we are used to. Yeah, they make each other smile and laugh, they have their fun conversations. But there is something in the middle of them that nagging them. Celine can't seem to get over Jesse's faults, but Jesse feels that he is still as in love with Celine from when they first met all those years ago. I think its human nature that we as a species reach an age where we just don't want to go through life alone, and this movie paints that point in broad strokes.
If you don't like talky films, I'd say skip this film and the entire trilogy. Like I said, this isn't a fairy tale romantic movie, this gets down to the nitty-gritty. This whole trilogy has broken down Jesse and Celine's relationship to fractions. But the conversations in this film feel so human, so heartfelt, so realistic that it feels like a real discussion between two people. The genius of the movie is how these two souls talk to each other. In a mostly music-less film, the talking is deeply effective.
Jesse and Celine not only have grown as individuals but so have Ethan Hawke and Julie Duply. It seems with each passing of decades, new struggles, new lifelessons, and new battles are sprouting around the couple. These actors have really become these characters. By the end of this "Before Midnight" I feel like I have gotten to know two individuals, not watching actors play characters. Hawke and Duply pour their souls into these characters and give them incredible life.
Overall, this film works best because it isn't a romantic movie in a fairy tale kind of way. Because, let's face it, that's not real life. True love is not about meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right, riding off to the castle and living happily ever after. Our world is much more complicated than that. In a complicated world, all one can hope for is to find someone who understands you and loves you, who will take care of you, who will support you for who you are, support your goals, support your dreams, support your passions. They may not be the person you completely dreamed would sweep you off your feet, but gosh they sure can make you laugh. If you are able to find someone like that, than you better get them and hold on. In an imperfect world, that is more than enough.
All of this is beautifully and masterfully told in one of the years best films so far. And I hope Linklater, Hawke, and Duply continue to return every ten years so that we can check up on Jesse and Celine.
FINAL GRADE: A+