Starring: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke.
Rated: R. Drama/Romance. Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes.
There are supporting actors in Before Midnight, the third installment of the saga of Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy). And they are more involved here than the fringe players in the previous two movies; but this story has always been a two person show. We met Jesse and Celine when they met, on a train in Europe in 1995’s Before Sunrise. Two strangers with an undeniable attraction who end up wandering around Vienna and talking through the night. They do eventually sleep together, but this was no one night stand. At the end, as they prepare to go their separate ways, they set a date to meet there again exactly a year later. Flash forward nine years to 2004’s Before Sunrise. Jesse is in Paris promoting his best selling book, which is of course based on their one magical evening. He’s at a book signing and Celine shows up. You see they didn’t get together at their planned rendezvous, as Celine’s grandmother had died. Jesse, now married (unhappily) had showed up, but only now finds out why Celine didn’t. Their walk this time takes them through the streets of Paris, and we discover that neither has ever forgotten the other. At the end Jesse visits Celine’s apartment, she sings him a song she wrote, and he misses his flight home to New York. Another nine years have passed and in Before Midnight Jesse and Celine are finally together. They have twin girls and are visited by Jesse’s son, as the whole family vacations in Greece. We soon discover that these two are not living a fairy tale life. Not too far in, they are again off on another of their trademark walks through some truly gorgeous surroundings. No two actors, in my recollection, have the unique chemistry of Delpy and Hawke. Their intellectual banter on subjects from love to work to philosophy to you name it, have had me mesmerized from the beginning. Their comfort with one another feels so natural that it doesn’t seem like they’re acting at all. I believe this third collaboration with director Richard Linklater is supposed to be the last in the trilogy, but I for one am left wanting to know more of what happens. Here’s hoping they can come up with one more “Before” for 2022.
Before Midnight catches up with the couple who seem a little less happy and a little more chunky. Like two busy parents with full time jobs their wardrobes mimic their disheveled frame of mind. There’s one scene during their walk when Jesse’s shirt is half tucked in and half out. It was driving me crazy, but it’s an authentic depiction of how people in long term relationships just stop caring at some point. It seems as though reality has finally caught up with our free spirited pair. But there’s still hope for Jesse and Celine as they embark on a familiar stroll and begin a stimulating conversation. The couple have been granted a night alone in a fancy hotel and the scene is set for a romantic evening. But reconnecting and shutting out the rest of the world may not be so easy. I have a special affinity for these films because when Ross and I were first dating he pointed out similarities between Jesse and Celine’s chemistry to our own. Predominantly the fact that we spent our first date talking throughout the night. We watched the first two together and I really enjoyed them. But Ross realizes that these movies are not for everyone and he’s absolutely right. All three of these films focus on the two main characters and the majority of each movie is just the two of them talking. I find their conversations captivating and enlightening. But I could definitely see where an audience could be bored. Especially if they had no idea what they’re walking into.
Definitely not for everyone. However, if you have a romantic side and appreciate fabulous acting; if you could enjoy a story that can take you from the possibility of “happily ever after” to the reality of true love when life gets in the way. If you have a modicum of intelligence, and like thought provoking conversation that has you contemplating both points of view, then you absolutely MUST see all three of these movies. Jesse and Celine are two of the greatest characters ever created. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have been involved in the writing since the beginning, and you can tell it is a labor of love for them. There is a scene around a dinner table in Greece that is especially well written and planned out. A young couple early in their relationship, love burning bright. Celine and Jesse, a bit further along, but not so far removed that they can’t remember and long for those feelings again. An older Greek couple who have been together 20+ years, who are happy but pragmatic in where their relationship is, they put up with each other mostly. An older woman who lost her husband some years ago and worries that she is beginning to forget what he looked like. An older man who is a writer, philosopher, has a missing wife (unexplained), and plenty to say about male/female relationships and life in general. This one dinner scene gives the audience a glimpse into the human condition from A to Z. The facial expressions of the characters give as many incites as the words themselves. I love the movies en masse a bit more than Before Midnight on it’s own, but it’s as important, if not more so, than the first two. Like Maria said to me while we were watching, “if this had just been them sailing off into the sunset all kissy-kissy, everything’s great, it would have sucked.” She’s right (almost always is), a finish like that would have been pure merde.
The best thing about these movies is that they have an authentic feel. If they just presented some fairytale life in this third installment it would have felt forced and disingenuous. Instead they give us these two people we’ve literally watched grow together and now apart, on-screen. I am a hopeless romantic. But in this day and age, this depiction seems the most realistic portrayal of a couple in these circumstances. I wouldn’t dare ruin the ending for you, but let’s just say – there is always hope. Hope that two people in love can find each other again. Hope that the future can be better than the past. And hope that love will endure. Hope is a powerful thing…and so is love. Love can span over months, years and decades. The most fitting analogy I’ve heard about love is that it is very similar to a plant. It needs to be watered and cared for, or else it dries up and wilts. Jesse and Celine just need a little sun and some water. Lastly, I want to say “Happy Anniversary” to my parents, married 44 years this past Tuesday. Congratulations and thank you for being an example of lasting love.
Ross’ Rating: 4.25 Gummy Bears out of 5.
Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.