Before Midnight

Before Midnight ★★★★½

Before Midnight -:- The Fading

“And now I worry
Our horizons bear nothing new
Cos I get this feeling
Maybe you get it too
We’re on a rollercoaster 
Stuck on its loop-de-loop
Cos what we did, one day on a whim
Has suddenly become all we do”

This is not a love story, it’s just a story about love. It’s one thing to connect with someone when you’re stranded together for a night, another to meet again nine years later and continue that relationship with those foundations, but what of the long term? Is it possible for the fairytale to survive reality without wilting at the passage of time? Can two people overcome the barrage of emotions and circumstances, even with that dreamlike romance being their basis? Can love exist along with everything else?

These two characters and the other two movies were always a matter of chemistry and personal collaboration. Where Jesse and Celine would be having conversations and learning about one another, Ethan and Julie would be right there with them, engineering their dialogue and mannerisms in conjunction with their growing age and maturity. There’s something different about Before Midnight and it’s probably why it’s usually people’s least favourite of the trilogy; it’s a rather somber affair from the get go. Over two movies, these two characters have been part of one really romantic, philosophical story and now, at the end, that hazy, happy go lucky feeling is almost nowhere to be found. 

Our movie isn’t these people finding one another and learning about themselves, it’s about them slowly growing apart and taking heed of their differences. Jesse isn’t on a book tour or traveling Europe when we first see him, he’s bidding farewell to a son he never sees and lives half the world away from, he’s an ageing author with an internalised longing to be there for someone he thinks he’s failing. And Celine, ever the feminist, feeling trapped and so far away from who she wanted to be. She wanted love and she got it, it’s just that love is difficult and so are the constraints that come with it. They’re two people that have always had separate views and interests, separate lives and separate dreams, their twins and ambitions are slowly creating a chasm that’s threatening to turn into mid life crisis and separation.

What I love about Before Midnight is how Richard Linklater handles this total chess game of a narrative. From minute one, their actions and issues reveal their new perceptions of one another. Slight dislikes and arguments are presented in little micro aggressions at the dinner table with friends and joking jabs in the car. Neither is wholly in the wrong, they both have their faults and fair points, desperately trying to make the other see their point of view but in doing so, only make the rift wider and more difficult to get past. We’ve gotten through two movies of people talking about dissolving into molecules and having one perfect night in Vienna but now, close to that mid point in life, we see their relationship without the gloss or veneer or the pretence. They’re just two people who wanted different things but also each other. 

I totally understand the people who want a fourth film, I do. But in the first, we were left wondering if they’d meet again. In the second, we were asking about them staying together. By the end of this third film, does it really matter if we have any more? We know these two people. Whether or not they stay together is far from the point, they’re human beings with much more going on than just romance. These stories were always intended to be touchstones in life. The romantic, carefree twenties with the travelling and the to-ing and fro-ing. The slightly more matured thirties with the careers and the feeling of needing to settle down. And the forties with the couple status and the offspring and the balancing of work and life. Jesse and Celine are these movies, not their romantic connection, that’s just part of the beauty. This trilogy is like a portrait that gets aged over time and with it, becomes something far more inspiring and profound. This isn’t a trilogy about romance, it’s a trilogy of two peoples lives and how they impact one another. In the words of a smart man, time is a slow rush.

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