18 years after Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) had a fateful night where they fell in love in Before Sunrise (1994), they are vacationing in Greece with their two daughters and Jesse has just sent his son back to Chicago to his now ex-wife. They’ve been in Greece for six weeks, in which time Jesse has written and gotten to know a much older, wise host and fellow writer. Celine is considering a new job, and learns at the beginning of the film that a major project she had been working on fell through at the last-minute.
There’s a very touching exchange between Jesse and his son Hank at the airport as Jesse sees him off. Since Jesse lives in Paris with Celine now, he doesn’t see Hank very much, and as Hank is entering his high school years, Jesse struggles with that separation and his need and want to be a more central part of Hank’s life.
Some friends Jesse and Celine are staying with offer to watch their girls for a night so the couple can get away and enjoy some time together. They wander the streets for a bit, conversing about their relationship and mostly enjoying the fact that they have time for just them without having their twins with them. As parents they’ve had to build their lives around the footsteps in the background. Since I’m not a parent, I can’t really relate to it. The conversations here and throughout the movie have shifted from the previous films. As Jesse and Celine have gotten older, their interests and priorities have changed. They don’t talk so much about big broad subjects but spend a lot of time conversing about their relationship, their kids, the past and the future. It’s a nice dynamic and departure from the previous films.
They do address love in a broader sense at dinner with the couple who rented their hotel room for them, an older gentleman, his grandson and the grandson’s girlfriend, and a woman who is a widow but good friend of the host. There’s a big contrast, and while most of the people see relationships and marriage as something where two people exist, the widow expresses the loss she felt when her husband died. Part of her was gone, and it’s nice to see the value of that expressed. I thought she spoke with the most conviction, speaking more from the heart and less from a logical cynical viewpoint.
In this film, far more than in its two predecessors there’s a much stronger contrast in the way men and women think and go about their current situations. Throughout the film it seemed like each person was rooted in either logical thought or emotion. Celine definitely appealed a lot more through emotion, though she distinctly remains true to character in ignoring and fighting traditional female roles and expectations, specifically within the family. Jesse is more methodical and following logical patterns. No, I don’t think he was right all the time, I found that each had moments of great insight and other moments of semi-craziness. There’s a good balance between the two, and I get the sense that Delpy and Hawke enjoy working together.
Their on-screen chemistry has only gotten better with each new film. Jesse did something that I as a husband and some day a father had a big problem with. It could help explain why there was some of the tension between him and Celine. It knocked him down a few rungs in my book, and while it added to the story line and the relational tension, I just didn’t like it. Also, once they’re in the hotel, I didn’t really like that Celine remained topless for quite a few minutes of conversation. It’s more a personal preference, but I felt it was a bit unnecessary.
A major plus to this film is the scenery. Greece looks absolutely magnificent, and Linklater does a great job at capturing this. From the ruins to the garden and through the streets, the scenery is just great.
Before Midnight is a film that I’ll need to sit down and watch again once my wife and I have kids. I remember watching Before Sunset the second time after being married whereas the first time was before my wife and I were dating. It was definitely different watching it the second time. Perspective and experience inform one’s understanding of a film. Since Jesse and Celine are a little older than me, and they’ve had kids, that’s anther life milestone that I’m sure will change how I view things, and will change how I enjoy this film.
One of the main downsides of the film is that my wife is gone this week and we’ll have to wait until it comes out on DVD to see. I could see them making another film in 9 years. Jesse and Celine will be 50, their daughters about to finish high school. Should make for interesting. This is definitely a niche type franchise, and it’s one that I think has and can only get better with age.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.