Cast: Ethan Hawk, Julie Deply
Director: Richard Linklater
It started with a loud German couple fight on a train to Vienna from Budapest when Jesse a young American strikes up a conversation with a young French girl Celine. They talk more and Jesse convinces her to spend the night walking streets of Vienna talking everything under the sky especially relationships of course. When movie ended they are in love. Romantic as hell. Full of promise of young love. They decide to meet after 6 months in same place and part ways. That was 1994 and it was Before Sunrise. A decade later the city is Paris. We learn Jesse is now a writer wrote a book called “That Time” based on thier encounter. When film opens he is in a famous bookstore for last few hours of his promotional tours. He sees Celine through the glass who also lives in French capital came to meet him after reading an article on the same book. We learn she couldn’t make it because of death of her grandmother. They catch up and starts walking the streets of Paris, visiting again for the course of the movie which is near real time. Last time we saw them in one of the most sublime movie endings. “Baby, you are gonna miss that plane”. That was Before Sunset.
A decade has passed since. Yes, he missed that plane and they are a couple now with cute twin girls. It’s 10 years later set in Greece. Jesse is there with family (Celine and girls) to spend 6 weeks with a famous old writer and few other folks. The movie opens with Jesse dropping off his son Hank from previous marriage where he feels bad that has to live far away in Paris whereas his son is in Chicago. As he exits the airport we see Celine in their car waiting with twins. And the talk starts with drive which continues to their beach side villa and then to the lunch table everyone represent a different age group share their perspectives of life, sex, man and woman dynamics, masculine and feminism, pleasure obsessed virtual world we are living in, soul mates, love and finally death. This is some of the best insightful conversations you will ever hear. Stimulating as hell. I can’t resist but putting some excerpts from the lunch table chat:
Anna (young, sexy, in 1 year relationship with old writer’s grandson): “Hearing all this I wonder if idea of love affair lasts forever is still relevant to us?” And then tells story of grandmother’s mother who wrote a 27 pages deathbed letter to her whole family but mentions her husband for just three paragraphs and eventually concludes an advice to self who soon will be consumed by romantic love – friendships and work brought her most of the happiness.
Grandson asks the old writer grandpa if his grandma was his soul mate to which he replies that the idea of soul mate sounds appealing to him but his grandma was more rationale than that. She took care of herself and asked him to do the same keeping plenty of room to visit in-between. While stressing that eventually it’s not love of one person but love for life matters.
Old lady friend at soiree closes and fills this cynical, practical, humorous, biting debate with optimism and crazy old school love about she forgetting her husband who almost smoldered her with his love all her life says, “Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.” To which Jesse (romantic) raises a toast while Celine (cynic) reluctantly clings her glass anyway.
Later Celine and Jesse starts walking streets of Greece to a hotel room where the talk starts again which eventually concludes in 30 minutes epic vicious fight that is nothing short of astounding. (“I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.”). A Bergman movie in itself. A tribute to his Scenes from a Marriage.
I was drained and shocked to see so much raw emotions on screen with one of my all time favorite screen couples almost ripping apart each other leaving me wrecked. But at the end of this thirty minutes bleak, dark, savage passage is there a hope? Is there a sign of that romantic love I believe in? If Before Midnight is not giving it to me then to whom I am going to turn to? But that doesn’t come from that wonderful Nina Simone song like its predecessor or the waltz of Celine’s guitar but the characters’ decision of not giving up on their partner.
This is Before Midnight. This is ingenious, vicious work of art. We always wanted Jesse and Celine to end up together. This is the first of it’s kind film which will show what happens when you find your soul mate. It’s about our imperfections, because love is fundamentally imperfect!