#859 Before Midnight
2013 // USA // Richard Linklater
Criterion Collection (LINK)
Before Sunrise (1994) opens with a scene of middle-aged married couple in a ferocious argument on train, ironically, the disquieting quarrel is the reason why Celine (Julie Delpy) changes her seat and leads to the fateful meeting with her future soulmate Jesse (Ethan Hawke). The story of Celine and Jesse is continued with two more sequels after nine and eighteen years subsequently. If Before Midnight (2013) is the utter final conclusion (who can say for sure there would not be a fourth chapter emerged in 2022), then the trilogy really comes in a full circle as Before Midnight “almost” ends in a quarrel between a couple, and this time it’s Celine and Jesse taking the center stage in the most heated and authentic argument I ever seen presented onscreen. The echoing scene from one film to another is partly like a déjà vu, partly a recalling exercise of the die-hard fans and film critics for in-depth analysis.
Before Midnight follows the story of Celine and Jesse after their reencounter in Paris nine years ago. Jesse is separated from his ex-wife and they are now married with twin daughters. The film opens with Jesse saying farewell to his teenage son Hank who lives with Jesse’s ex-wife in American, they have spent the summer holidays together with Celine and the twins on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula upon the invitation of Jesses’s novelist friend. The narrative structure follows closely with the two predecessors by having long scene of conversations as the framework, the difference is, in Before Midnight, Celine and Jesse have more interactions with their own friends since the two separated paths are now coalesce. The table dining scene between a group of people is the first amid the Before Trilogy which largely composed with the sole interactions between Celine and Jesse and occasionally with a third character.
When the preceding two films celebrate the bittersweet love story and romanticise it in the tendency of fairy tale, the final chapter is the realistic depiction of marriage without the sugar-coating; when the preceding two films approaches the gender difference between man and woman individually from their own perspectives and explore the common ground, the final chapter deals with it by dissociating a nuclear family and reveals the fundamental issue uncompromisingly; when the preceding two films take ‘time’ as a limiting factor in a blossoming romance, Before Midnight takes ‘time’ as a unalterable past hindering a developed relationship. While the ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’ signify the time of farewell, the ‘midnight’ in the last film has no much function. The urgency in the first two films is replaced by agitation and frustration evoked in the prolonged argument in the last act.
If the first two films convince you on the existence of true love, then Before Midnight might have the opposite effect. It induces the doubt on marriage, it reminisces your past experience if you are/was married or involved in a prolonged relationship, it might even prompt a breakup if a couple watch the film together. In all three films, the screenplay is a collaborative product between the director Richard Linklater and the two leads themselves, unsurprisingly it reflects a large amount of authenticity that unavoidably sounds all too real. But not for one minute you may feel suspicious of the scenarios as artificial. The conflicting feelings between husband and wife, the flaws in human relationships and the hindrance for harmony are all exemplified in the last act when Celine and Jesse plan to spend a private night in a hotel but ended up in a fierce fight. Luckily the film ends in an optimistic note when the two sort of reconcile, yes they will probably have another fight in the future but we all understand for a relationship to last as long as possible, if not forever, compromises are always needed, thankfully the film never compromises in illustrating that.