The final part to the indie romance trilogy has a lot to live up to. We’ve watched its two neurotic, slightly pretentious yet lovable protagonists progress from puppy-love to potential commitment. Now BEFORE MIDNIGHT broaches uncharted territory: what happens to this promising couple after they walk into the sunset?
Rather a lot, as it turns out. We reunite with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) on a family vacation. Two children, three published books and the beautiful backdrop of Greece, and all seems well for the charming couple. However, an undercurrent of mutual frustration and discontent is present, and watching it rise to the surface in these familiar, beloved characters over one evening is fascinating.
…this couple is no longer inhabiting a detached bubble of attraction and conversation.
Initially, we are seeing Celine and Jesse interact with outsiders to their relationship, which is a rare occurrence in the trilogy. For the first time, these characters are given a context other than each other. It’s an inevitable development, for this couple is no longer inhabiting a detached bubble of attraction and conversation. We witness a slightly nauseating collection of romantics of all ages discussing the nature of relationships over a long lunch, whilst we eagerly anticipate finally seeing the couple as we always see them – alone. After a creaky start, they unwillingly head off for a night alone at a nearby hotel, and the fireworks begin. Yet this time we are not witnessing a whimsical sequence of romantic conversation, but one epic, tumultuous row.
a candid, rather jaded perspective of a relationship is presented…
BEFORE MIDNIGHT isn’t afraid to broach darker territory than its predecessors. The whimsy and sensuality from the previous instalments is stripped away, and a candid, rather jaded perspective of a relationship is presented, perhaps symptomatic of domestic life. They are now bogged down with a family of their own, a complicated divorce and a child across the Atlantic. Jesse’s suggestion of moving to Chicago to forge a relationship with his son sets off one of the most spectacular oral combats to hit the screen. This climactic interaction is troubling in its black sincerity as well as being immensely entertaining.
One of the most authentic things about these films is the fact that the nine year interims in these characters’ lives are matched by the breaks between films. These character-orientated, dialogue-driven stories allow us to watch two individuals mature and genuinely grow up, their relationship dissected in just a couple of hours every nine years. It makes ONE DAY look like a formulaic parody.