Before Midnight (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
21Jun/130

Before Midnight (2013)

We don't have foreverAndrew LIKE BannerCeline and Jesse aren't going to last forever.  It's not even clear they were meant to be to begin with.  When the sun rose on their relationship they were two kids looking for a home and found temporary solace in each other.  As the sun set they were disappointed by the security their choices provided and kept wondering what might have been if fate had put them back together.  Now it's dark, the sun has long set, Celine and Jesse have each other and all that does is raise more questions about if they'll ever feel the same as they grow old as they did when they found each other.

Before Midnight is another nearly perfect telling of this chapter in their lives.  After Celine and Jesse met each other as romantic kids in Before Sunrise and reconnected years later a bit more weathered in Before Sunset, they know what life with each other is like.  Director Richard Linklater, along with his chief performers and co-writing crew Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, have once again made the most romantic movie of the years by simply telling the truth.

They are not going to be together forever.  Either Celine's self-destructive wishes will finally push Jesse to the edge, his condescending intellectualizing will put her down once too often, or one of them is going to die.  They're both afraid of all three of those possible outcomes and now, after Jesse has put his estranged son on a plane back to America, it seems to be the best and worst time to talk about these problems.  After all, what's a better time to tell your partner that you want to have a calm and reasonable discussion after events that put an emotional strain on the both of you?

Celine, while not as measured as Jesse, still feels fire that he is slowly leaving behind.

Celine, while not as measured as Jesse, still feels fire that he is slowly leaving behind.

The earlier films followed Celine and Jesse as they talked their way through an important part of their lives and this film does not buck that brilliant execution.  After Jesse says goodbye to his son he has a loaded conversation with Celine about their life in Paris and what they could do to stay a little closer with Jesse's son.  "Maybe move to America?" she keeps asking as an accusation.  "I'm just trying to talk through this" he keeps dodging.

Whether they will work out or not, this light and eventually heavy sparring between the two shows that they are perfect for each other even if their relationship is not.  Jesse, for all his intellectual haughtiness, will continue to try and pull Celine back from the brink no matter how far she has gone.  Celine will keep infusing their relationship with passion so that Jesse stays focused on the two of them.  But they'll hurt each other even as they make the other happy.

These ideas continue throughout some of the best dialogue ever written.  The trio of Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke have so thoroughly lived the lives of these characters that there is not a single moment that feels inauthentic while building on an easy shared history loaded with subtext because of what they've gone through.  My absolute favorite exchange recalls the previous two films.  Celine asks Jesse, if you saw me on that train today, would you still get off with me?  He jokes, kind of dodges the question, and she starts to storm off in a huff.  I wanted to shake him, "She's not asking you to relive the past you dummy, she's asking you if you would do this all again if you had the chance."

I love having reactions like that.  There are many times during their conversations, both heated and loving, where they say the absolute right thing and other times where they seem oblivious to the pain their words are causing.  Their lives have been filled with so many shared causes, books, and experiences at this point that nothing is safe from extra scrutiny.  I admit, I still side with Jesse's endless, if wearying, optimism about life than Celine's continued view that everything is screwed but they both make good points about where they are and where they are going.

Jesse still keeps positive and cool, but likes to point this out about himself far too often.

Jesse still keeps positive and cool, but likes to point this out about himself far too often.

All the while the perfect technique Linklater has developed with his camera continues to shine.  There is no hint of intrusion when we watch them fight, or embrace each other.  Linklater keeps the perfect distance from the two of them, surrounding their environments and clothing their bodies with cool and inviting colors.  When they finally arrive in a hotel room prepared for them by mutual friends and the perfect, rigid, angular art fills the background it's a perfect setting for them to finally let loose with the emotion they've kept inside to contrast their surroundings.

The only problem I have is that some moments stretch on too long earlier in the film to play heavy thematic resonance later on.  To the film's immense credit, I had no idea this was happening until long after the credits stopped and had to think about why a tiny part of it dragged. This is the first film where outsiders are welcomed openly into Celine and Jesse's lives.  Previously they were amused (the poet in Sunrise) or pressured (Jesse's tour manager in Sunset).  Now there is an extended sequence where couples of differing degrees of commitment and age talk about where they feel relationships, be it their own or in a general sense, are going in the future.  It stretches on a hair too long and broadcasts later troubles a bit too overtly, but still finds a beautiful note to end on.

When Before Midnight ended, I left with a sense of completion.  Celine and Jesse are going to end, but they are going to fight like hell to keep each other happy in the meantime.  It's another perfect expression of how hard the most important relationship is to keep, but there's nothing better in this world.

Before Midnight - TailBefore Midnight (2013)
Directed by Richard Linklater.
Screenplay written by Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke.
Starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

Posted by Andrew

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