January 30, 2014

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater, 2013
WARNING: If you haven't seen the previous two Before films, you'd be doing yourself a favor if you didn't read on. Please watch Before Sunrise and Before Sunset first, and then please come back!

The third installment in Linklater's Before story continues nine years after Before Sunset. Jesse and Celine are on the tail-end of their holiday in Greece with their two daughters. Jesse is conflicted after bringing his son (from his previous marriage) to the airport sending him back home to America, wishing he could have a bigger role in his everyday life. Celine finds herself struggling with her career, not sure which path to take. Both of them are finding that even by escaping to Greece for six weeks they are still confronted with the complications of their everyday lives together.

In a way Midnight takes what somewhat-similar film This is 40 does what it should have done. Properly portrayed a couple dealing with a sort of inescapable mid-life crisis. While Sunrise and Sunset have a rather seamless transition to each other, the passage to Midnight is a bit different. Linklater's choice of direction is bold in the sense that he doesn't play it safe. He could easily have continued on with the innocent two-people-in-their-own-world progression with the story. Instead he decides to take a more pragmatic back-down-to-earth approach, touching on the nuances of an aged relationship. Notes of resentment, regret, jealousy. Idiosyncrasies that are comical early on together become annoyances later on. Lot's of fires burning. Never feeling completely at ease. Those old walks together have become short breaks from their all-consuming child-care. The elegantly-lit streets of Paris have turned into walks among ancient ruins as they walk through their memories. A picture likely frightening to anyone under the age of 40. The complications they face feel so inevitable, believable, and clearly do not spare even the most passionate of lovers. They are no longer two young people fueled by a heart-hungry buzz, completely living in the moment. In fact, much of their time is spent looking back. Half of their life has passed them by. The recurring villain of the three films, Father time, has reared his ugly head again and has taken new form. Instead of the feeling of "I need to make the most of these precious few hours with this person" they are left with feelings of variable reflection. This film doesn't have an immediate impact but it certainly has a lingering effect. And as one would expect, Linklater once again leaves the story open so fittingly. Hopefully we can drop in on Jesse and Celine in 2023 and see how they are doing. And hopefully they are okay?

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