Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Before Midnight" is another welcome entry in the "Before" series

It's nine years later. Jesse and Celine are together... finally. They have twin daughters. They have a whole life together. They felt a deep connection with each other when they first met 18 years ago, then nine years later, decided to act on that connection. And now here we are. "Before Sunset" ended on a suggestion, "Before Midnight" shows the result. Jesse and Celine are together and now have to deal with the consequences of real life. While Jesse asked Celine to travel around Vienna with him on a whim in "Before Sunrise," "Before Midnight" shows how those moments of spontaneity can have all kinds of long-lasting effects. If Jesse had known that taking a brief detour with Celine could impact his future son's life, would he have done it still? Was it all worth it?

Better yet, if the events of "Before Sunrise" took place in 2013, would any of this matter? "Before Midnight" not only explores the continuation of Celine and Jesse's relationship, it also explores how technology has greatly impacted the modern relationship. Jesse and Celine could not communicate for nearly a decade after they met in "Sunrise." But on their trip to Greece, they meet a young couple who had met and fallen in love in Greece, kept in contact via Skype, and were able to keep that relationship alive. The fact of the matter is, that nine year block when Jesse and Celine weren't together has caused a permanent strain on their current relationship. Jesse now has a 14 year old son that lives in Chicago and can only visit during the summer. He wishes he can be closer to his son and be more of a presence in his life. But these are things Celine doesn't want to hear.

Overall though, how are Celine and Jesse these days? Well, they're a lot of things. They have their ups and downs like any other couple. Suddenly, reality has made their incredibly romantic story incredibly... normal. They are passionate, they can still have involving conversations with each other, but they also fight. They fight a lot. And "Before Midnight" climaxes with an incredibly ugly fight where many things are said, feelings being thrown around with reckless abandon, literally preventing them from what was to be a planned romantic night.

"Before Midnight" not only works as a welcome third part of an amazing trilogy, but it also provides amazing insight into the life of a committed couple, now into their 40s, that is so life-like that watching them fight in a hotel room will make you cringe. It's not that either one of them are right, that's exactly the point. They have their own agendas that they're pushing towards each other, their arguments are such that it's impossible for either to be right. What originally had them fall for each other is now what makes them fight all the time. They're both passionate people, from different ends of the spectrum.

These issues were touched upon in Judd Apatow's "This is 40," but obviously those circumstances are a bit different. In "This is 40," Pete and Debbie are going through mid-life crises and that, in turn, affects their love life. But "Before Midnight" is much more consistent and really puts the microscope on these feelings. "Midnight" has long scenes of just conversation, like the previous two films, where ideas are explored from multiple perspectives. At the end, nothing is necessarily resolved but you get the feeling that this is just another fight. Celine and Jesse are meant to be together, they were made for each other. They will have their bitter fights, but there is still something there that keeps them together. There's an unspeakable bond.

Director Richard Linklater has been all over the map in the past ten years, as a filmmaker. But, when he returns to this material, he handles it as deftly as he did the previous two times. The only thing this film is missing, that the previous two had, was a sense of time running out. In "Sunset" and "Sunrise," Celine and Jesse eventually had to part ways, or at least that is how those stories were framed. Therefore, it automatically made their day carry emotional weight. Each minute that passes by makes it closer to the inevitable. But here, there is no parting ways. They made a commitment to each other and this is it. So while the film is a necessary and logical next step in their relationship, it's not quite as compelling overall as the previous two films. Other than that, the film is a delight, and a must-see for fans of "Before Sunset" and "Before Sunrise."

Grade: B+

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