Reviewed for the 405
‘Before Midnight’ aka Jesse and Celine: The Golden Years reunites Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for the third film in the Rom Prom (romantic promenade) trilogy, a life long project and postmodern exploration into what happens after the cute meet.
Much has changed since ‘Before Sunrise,’ when Jessie and Celine had one fairy tale night together in Vienna, as the Prince and Princess now have adorable twin girls, difficult ex wives and in Jessie’s case, a 13-year-old son from his previous marriage whom he drops off at a airport at the end of a family holiday in Greece.
Yes, Celine and Jesse are still together, the airport opening a sly nod to the climactic ending of the previous film, but all is not well in paradise. Although the film quickly slips back into their renowned and appealing discourse, it is quickly revealed they are battling disappointed expectations and unspoken resentment.
The first third of the film strays from it’s previous walking and talking through the streets of Europe construct as the couple spend time with friends at a writers retreat discussing love, life and slowly pulling each other to shreds amongst the idyllic sunshine. Instead of the organic romance of the previous films, where they stumbled upon the perfect indie rom com catalyst to amplify their connection, Jesse and Celine have to be bought a hotel room by their friends in order to have a night away together. They commence with the stagey evening, the film dealing with what it is to keep love alive past middle age, where dates have to be planned long in advance and spontaneity is no longer an option with busy lives and children to take care of. Hawke is depicted as a loveable but perpetually childish idealist who’s easy going nature begins to grate on the passionate but dissatisfied Celine leading to some brutal verbal warfare. They did not see their lives quite like this.
‘Before Midnight’ has a filmic sensibility the phrase ‘it’s not like the old days’ was coined for, where both the men and the women have flaws and conversations last longer then a five second plot point hitter. The effort put into work shopping the dialogue by Delpy, Hawke and Linklater is evident because it seem so effortless, but it also hits a manner of uncomfortable truths for anyone who has every struggled in a relationship (yes, everyone) and both loved and resented someone in equal measure at the same time. There is a lack of vanity in the portrayal of these characters, both witty and devastating in equal measure, and I found them engaging company throughout as they address whether ultimately, they do belong together.