Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

So let’s talk about this film shall we? It destroyed me. Utterly and completely. Watching these two people who I kind of grew up as a romantic and film lover with, who have meant so much to me and I’ve had such dreams about, fight and completely rip each other down was one of the most brutal things I’ve seen on the screen since the original Maniac. Seeing them know each other so well now, all the resentments and petty (and not so petty) jealousies, all the ways they know to easily hurt each other, all the times one is clearly trying to reach out to the other and confide something but the other decides to not be there in favor of the argument. Ugh. I literally felt the smile on my face fade.

Let’s get to that smile. For most of this film I was grinning. Watching Jesse walk out of the airport and seeing Celine standing by the car waiting for him made me immediately happy. And watching the film, seeing how absolutely perfectly well Hawke, Delpy and Linklater still know these characters was insanely satisfying. Their little gestures and facial expressions are exactly the same and come at similar moments. I also loved loved loved seeing the same talking style they always had with each other. They still converse in the same way, it’s just like the previous films. Except. Now many of their conversations revolve around their grown up, complicated and painful life together. A real partnership. All the easy intimacies and easy hurts that entails, all the casual simple connection and casual simple walls. And yeah, they still can go off on tangents and ideas with the best of them.

So seeing such a brutal scene and hearing her utter those "I don't love you anymore" words literally shattered me. It was like watching all my dreams literally murdered on the big screen. For the rest of the day I thought about how much I’ve changed since my first watching. All sorts of things, how I’m not the same romantic I was then, how I don’t get quite the same surge of joy about films like I used to when I was first discovering them. How I’m almost 30 (yeah I know, still insanely young). I’m so much happier now, in an adult, mature relationship with someone who understands me well and who I am planning on marrying soon. We laugh together and love each other so so much. And yet I found myself nostalgic for the heartbreak I felt watching Before Sunrise the first time, the longing for that kind of intense, young love. It’s interesting. I thought about how badly I wanted to be a filmmaker, how it was all I wanted to do and how now I not only have given up on that dream, but I don’t even have the desire for it anymore, showing how changed I am. I see the brilliance of having the movies do this, having reality creep in and showing us something real. But I’m not sure I ever wanted that from these films. Even Sunset, which is much more grown up and deals quite well with looking at how our dreams about our future in our young age never quite match the reality, still is insanely romantic and magical about these two people. And then I kept thinking about it and I realized something. This movie shows how worth the effort grown up love can be. With our main couple, yes, but from other people too. For all its revelations of hurt and breaking up and discussion of practicality in relationships (the young couple, the girl’s grandmother’s letter) it also deals deeply with incredibly long lasting love and partnership. The older lady at the dinner table talking about losing the memory of her husband, Jesse’s casual mention of his Grandmother’s dying so soon after her husband and basically just waiting for it all to end after their long marriage. And of course the interrupted sex scene. They seem to love each other so so much (I personally wanted the film to end with her “thinking” and him “hearing” it).

So yeah, I’m pretty glad the film ended the way it did. Another ellipsis, another ending that allows me to imagine my own future for these two. And one with enough there to let you hope that these two people can find that beautiful connection between them. Or, since it seems they already found it, fucking realizing it. Because if it hadn’t ended that way I might not have been able to move for a month.

Edit: Shit I knew I forgot something. I really enjoyed seeing what a dorky middle aged Dad Jesse has become. Doing silly voices and genuinely being embarrassing and goofy. I said before that Jesse was such a goober at 23, it makes total sense that he'd be dressed and behave exactly in this way at 41.

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