Before Midnight

Before Midnight

time has passed, and it shows. not just in the way Celine and Jesse are with one another, not just in the way they look, but in the way Linklater films them together. less time is spent on time, and there's the introduction of others: other couples, who are older and younger, children, goats down alleyways. the camera cuts away in the first half, expanding the bubble that Celine and Jesse occupied alone in Vienna and Paris. when they finally are alone—walking, for awhile, like we know them best, and then in that terribly planned hotel room—the bubble bursts. their tensions are seemingly higher than ever before, but there's also a rhythm and routine that suggests this isn't their first fight.

the question of whether it's their last one seems to be the divide between skeptics and hopefuls, first-time viewers and rewatchers. this is my third time seeing Before Midnight, and i think this was the first time i really ever laughed. it also is easier to watch now. the stakes seem less dire, the fight more forgivable. i think it's deceptively romantic, too. it's no more about effortless love or a chance meeting of soulmates. here is Jesse, flawed as ever with his ego and desire to have it all, giving Celine is all, again and again. she carries the same worry with her that she had two decades ago, that she is not enough to love, that she loves too much, that love is unbalanced and depleting rather than replenishing.

but even when she tries to give Jesse every out, he stays. he chooses her, again and again. when he comes back to her, a boy with all these beautiful dreams from another dimension, she chooses him, too. she reaches for her purse and thinks of leaving, but then she turns to him. and the night starts over, or maybe it resumes.

maybe that's what Love, big capital-L, fanciful and fleeting and terrible and marvelous, is. it's not always easy. it's not always fun. it's not even always romantic. but maybe the greatest love story is the one in which the character choose to stay—not just when it's good, but when it's ugly and terrible and boring and more ordinary than extraordinary. they're here to stay, even after the sun has gone, and the night has settled, and the blue night pulls dark over the horizon. they're here to stay until the morning.

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