Before Midnight

[Blogpost contributed by Bob!! Who is a big fan of this trilogy.]

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If you believe in soul mates and the magic of true love, this series is for you. Do yourself a favour and catch the two movies that preceded Before Midnight first: Before Sunrise (1995), and Before Sunset (2004).

What makes the trilogy different is that throughout the movies, there is no real plot to speak of. Aside from walking and talking, not much happens. The audience is pretty much forced to eavesdrop on the intimate conversations between Jesse (Ethan Hawke), and Celine (Julie Delphy) who met as strangers on a train in the first movie. The series truly shines as we seldom get treated to cinematic romance that is as real and raw as the Before franchise, and the banter on the every day topics of love and life.

In Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the series depicted what seems to be the start of something special, and the evolution of it. This is done in real time, as we follow Jesse and Celine over the course of 9 years from the time they first met in Before Sunset to the time they meet again in Before Sunrise. For fans that have been following the series closely, the wait is finally over for the third instalment.

9 years after Jesse and Celine’s surprise meeting in Before Sunset, Before Midnight continues Jesse and Celine’s spellbinding love affair, very much in the same vein as the first two movies. Even before the movie was released, it was revealed early on that Jesse and Celine would be married and have a pair of beautiful twins. Unsurprisingly, the plot had been given away intentionally as it was never really the draw of the series. What then could the audience expect in Before Midnight?

Looking visibly older, Jesse and Celine joined a group of friends for a 6 week long vacation in Greece and finally confronted all the problems accumulated over the course of their marriage. With that, Before Midnight took on a more serious tone, as it seeks to portray the more quotidian life of a married couple. Jesse appeared mellower, but still retains his flippant and charming side while Celine took on a more typical façade of a miserable mother and wife. There was a lot of talk about the couple’s marriage and the future, amongst other deep wisdom that Jesse’s Greek friends had to offer. All of which were a distraction from the whimsical and intimate conversations between Jesse and Celine that was such a hallmark of the franchise – and I wouldn’t expect less from a culmination of years of thought and collaboration between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

In Hawke’s own words: “Some people come to me and they think that this movie is darker because Jesse and Celine are fighting, or it’s less romantic, but I feel that they’re fighting with each other because they still desire to be connected. In a lot of ways, just because you blow up with somebody, it doesn’t mean something negative is happening. Sometimes it has to happen. Something about not fighting is dishonest. And that can be more toxic and more poisonous than fighting.”

The escapist in me loves watching movies for the fantasy, idealism, hope and happy endings. Thus I can’t help but be a little disappointed with how real the movie has become, especially when the magical love that was so enthralling in the first two movies took on a darker and more static nature. Some reviewers said that Before Midnight is about the after that takes place after happily ever after and I can’t agree more.

Although Before Midnight was not as captivating as Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, it did a very good job of bringing across the point on how falling in love is not a choice, but staying in love is. For that alone, this is definitely a must watch.

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