Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★

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Day 136 of 365 of my year long challenge

Week 20: In the mood for Love

Whether you've got a partner by your side or just some food, movies will always be there for you. Happy Valentines.
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Almost twenty years on from that fateful, spontaneous night in Vienna, Jesse and Céline have finally made a life together. In much the same way Before Sunset is entirely different from Before Sunrise, Before Midnight is entirely different from the two films that came before. The world has almost entirely reversed its position from that first night together. Gone is the spontaneity, the youthful hope, the reckless abandon, replaced instead by responsibility, resentment and boredom. With so much history, though, Before Midnight is surprisingly open to newcomers on its own merits but is not nearly the film it is without knowledge of the history between these two lost lovers.

Like Sunrise and Sunset, this is little more than a film about two people walking and talking. The difference now is that unlike before, this is not a chance encounter or a brief rendezvous, this stroll through Greece is another day in the life of a very established couple. We now know Jesse (Ethan Hawke) abandoned his unhappy life in New York to be with Céline (Julie Delpy) and together they tried to make something of it. What they got was a custodial battle for Jesse's son Henry (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) and twin girls. Thus, Before Midnight breaks from tradition and widens its scope to include more than our two leads. From children to friends, it's refreshing to see new faces, meet new characters and hear them speak the same incredible dialogue that has been the hallmark of this fantastic trilogy. Whether young or old, they make their mark felt in Jesse and Céline's constant back and forth over life, love, gender politics and every itty-bitty thing in between.

I suppose that's what strikes me most here. The conversational dialogue throughout this trilogy is phenomenal. It always has been. This is no less true here but, with the inclusion of others, there is less of it and it comes with a greater weight and a rougher, more practical force that hasn't been the case so far. We've been treated to all of the might be, could be and should be's, but now we are treated to the cold hard what is. Before Midnight is instantly immediate and brutally grounded. Jesse and Céline bounce off each other in such ways that they feel like both friends and adversaries in equal measure. That said, this seems to be the consequence of the malaise of marriage as these films see it.

Where I felt such connection to Sunrise and cautious fascination with Sunset, Before Midnight feels so very distant to me that it is the most like a film. The uninhibited spontaneous chance that invigorated Vienna and Paris all those years ago doesn't exist. With this newfound responsibility and restriction, I, without this, have lost some of the connection with Jesse and Céline but never my curiosity, love or imagined bond with them. Again, I suppose this will come in time but right now, I can't help but hope that the writers decided on an entirely happy ending for this very real couple.

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