The Scoop: 15 2013, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.
Summary Capsule: Round Three for Jesse and Celine, this time with added rage.
Louise’s Rating: Four out of four Greek villagers not featured in Mamma Mia!
Louise’s Review: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are loved by many people. They’re a far cry from the blockbusters that fill our multiplexes, but the ballad of Jesse and Celine has won our hearts. Ah, Celine and Jesse, those cynical, intellectual, risk-taking lovers! Pleasant and articulate enough to engage our interest, they don’t disgust us like so many characters in romantic movies do, but still stupid enough that it’s possible to feel better than them. “How nice to have heroes and heroines that actually have read a book, but I think I have a better handle on my relationships. Ah, bliss!”
That’s why, dear friends, it saddens me to have to tell you to approach Before Midnight with caution. Not because it’s bad, no, not at all! No. Approach with caution, because it’s hard! Jesse and Celine have been together for nine years when the film opens, and they have twin daughters and they’ve just spent six lovely weeks in Greece with their girls (and Jesse’s son Hank) at a writer’s retreat, but… but… but… their love may not last the night. There’s a bit of the old lively banter we recognise, but then the mood changes with a few careless sentences into one of the most painful arguments ever filmed.
You think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was hard to watch in school? Try watching a knockabout row with characters you actually care about. You need to be ready for Before Midnight because it hurts. Everything that drew Jesse and Celine together seemingly is drawing them apart. He is deeply saddened by the fact that he can’t be with the child from his first relationship. Celine feels guilty about keeping them apart. However, is she going to admit that? No! Celine will never acknowledge any part of that sorry scenario. She combines this bad feeling with the resentment she has towards Jesse’s so-called job (how come he gets to go on retreats and have ‘fans?’ How come she has to work in an office all day and receive endless setbacks in her quest to save the planet, and still manage the family?) and pouf! Vicious, stinking anger! Now, Jesse’s not completely innocent. He does have the job-but-not-a-real-job, and he does mine Celine for his novels, and he wants her to consider moving closer to his son, but he is completely committed to her and their children. Jesse was cynical about what mattered to Celine right back in Sunrise – the poem, the palm-reader – and now it’s come back to bite him, because she doesn’t believe he takes her career seriously.
It is special to follow characters from youth to middle age. You see yourself reflected in them, and them reflected in you. It’s devastating when they break your heart. Can Jesse and Celine go the distance, or is this the end? That’s a genuine question on my part. Once again, prizes all round for Delpy, Hawke and Linklater on acting, writing and directing duty, and a definite recommendation… but only for when you’re feeling emotionally strong.
- Before Midnight is dedicated to the memory of the woman who inspired Before Sunrise. Richard Linklater spent an evening in Philadelphia with her but they later lost contact, and he found out eventually that she had died in a motor accident.
- In Before Sunset, Celine and Jesse discuss Nina Simone, and in this film, one of their daughters is named Nina.
Celine: Now I know why Sylvia Plath put her head in a toaster!
Jesse: It was an oven.
Jesse: You are the … mayor of Crazytown, you know that? You are!
Jesse: I do not ogle women. I make love to them with my eyes.
Celine: Still there. Still there. Still there. Gone.
Celine: [Women] don’t have to spend our lives comparing ourselves to Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Tolstoy…
Jesse: What about Joan of Arc, right, she was a teenager and she saved France, so…
Celine: Who wants to be Joan of Arc? Forget France, she was burnt at the stake and a virgin, okay. Nothing I aspired to. What a great achievement.
Jesse: I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it.
Celine: I feel close to you.
Celine: But sometimes, I don’t know? I feel like you’re breathing helium and I’m breathing oxygen.
Jesse: [high pitched voice] What makes you say that?
If you like this movie, try:
- 2 Days in Paris
- Sleep With Me
- Paris, Je T’Aime