Film: Before Midnight (2013)
Cast includes: Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Julie Delpy (Broken Flowers)
Director: Richard Linklater (Bernie)
Genre: Drama (108 minutes), Part of a trilogy with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004)
“Don’t be scared to let your old man know what you’re thinking about,” Jesse tells 14-year-old Hank at the airport. Oh right… cherished moments of communication are via text… maybe Skype, if he’s lucky. Jesse’s going to try to get to Chicago in October, but Hank’s not excited about it. The airport farewell seems really flat until Hank finally says, “This was the best summer of my life.” Maybe the Greece trip was a good idea after all. Second wife Celine and their twin daughters are waiting by the car to head back to their Greek island vacation. While the girls snooze in the back seat, Celine tells Jesse that when they return to Paris, she’s thinking about taking that job. Jesse had the impression she couldn’t stand the guy… she can’t, but it’s a good opportunity. The conversation meanders to Jesse’s mom… to Jesse’s ex-wife… to Jesse’s son and how Jesse’s feeling like a shitty parent… wondering if they should be in Chicago more before Hank’s totally grown up. “He throws like a girl. He needs his father.” It’s out of the question, as far as Celine is concerned.
“This is where it ends. This is how people start breaking up,” she says. “It’s a ticking time bomb. We were on parallel tracks and now we’re not.” Back at Patrick’s house, it’s a literary group… and when they talk about Jesse’s books, we learn that his first two were about how he and Celine first met, fell in love, met again and…. The lunch conversation with several couples is mostly about relationships. “The idea of a love affair that lasts forever is totally impractical.” They wonder if there’s any such thing as a soul mate? Celine says, “The way to keep a man is to let him win.” And she goes into an imitation of a dumb blond, putting Jesse on a pedestal. “We appear. We disappear. We’re passing through,” says Natalia, whose husband died after a long marriage. Anyway, Jesse and Celine have gotten a gift from the others… one night at a romantic hotel in town… just the two of them, without the twins.
Celine had been “nervous about coming to Greece… it’s a place full of myth and tragedy.” Whether it was the lunch discussion or just being off on their own without the twins… the conversation meanders around to relationship anxieties… and things become rather uncomfortable. Most of the film is talking… long conversations between Jesse and Celine. This is the third movie about Jesse and Celine. They met in 1995 and met again in 2004. They’ve been together since then. But in this movie, things seem to be unraveling a bit. You don’t have to see the first two movies to enjoy this one, but if you haven’t seen them, you might be inspired to catch up. As the conversation temperature heats up and cools off, we’re not sure how it’s going to end… but it’s fairly obvious that Jesse and Celine really do love each other. Mature relationships are more complicated than young love. While the particulars are specific to Jesse and Celine, all of us can relate. These films appear to be a labor of love because the writing is a collaborative effort between the two lead characters and the director. “It’s the love of life… not the love of one other person.”
3 popped kernels
The third film about Jesse and Celine… their relationship is maturing… does it still work?
Rated: R (Language, nudity, sexual situations)
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Intense
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking