If you’re a fan of the Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, then you’ve likely been looking forward to the third installment in the story, Before Midnight. Sunrise tells the story of Jesse and Céline, who meet on a train in Europe. Jesse is on his way to the airport in Vienna, and Céline is on her way home, to Paris. Jesse has hours to kill before his flight leaves in the morning, and no money for a hotel, so plans to walk the streets of Vienna until sunrise. He convinces Céline to join him, and they walk and talk and fall in love, and promise to meet again in the future. Sunset takes place 9 years later, in Paris. It turns out that Jesse and Céline never did meet up as planned, so he wrote a book about that fateful night and the connection he felt with Céline, even though their relationship had only lasted hours. Céline comes to a book reading in Paris, and they again spend time together, walking and talking the streets while he waits for his flight back to the United States…to his wife and child.
Before Midnight brings us to Greece, 9 years after Sunset, and catches us up with Jesse and Céline. They are together, living in Paris, and have twin 8 year old daughters. He is writing, she is an environmental activist, and they are still very much in love…though not the heady, passionate love of youth from Sunrise, nor the intense longing-fueled love of Sunset. Their relationship has grown and changed, and they are used to each other and their strengths and weaknesses in a way that they weren’t before. In the first two movies, Jesse and Céline are trying to get to know each other, trying to show each other who they are. Their love is full of new discoveries, sharing their innermost thoughts and all of their stories. They are delighted with everything they see and learn about each other. In Midnight, they know each other well, probably better than anyone else in the world. Though at times they find themselves wondering if this person next to them has anything more than a passing resemblance to that delightful person they first met 18 years ago. There are compromises that have been made, resentments that have developed, and insecurities that threaten their future. In Sunrise and Sunset, it is the world and outside circumstances that threaten their relationship. In Midnight, it is them.
I really liked Before Midnight quite a bit, though I didn’t leave the theater with the happy, bubbly feeling that I did after the first two films. If Sunrise and Sunset were romances, Midnight is a love story. The story of what real life, and real love, can sometimes look and feel like. I’m not sure I would want to be in a romantic relationship with either character, but I thought they brought a lot of sincerity and truth to the film. If they decide to make a fourth film 9 years from now, I’ll be in line to see it.
Interesting trivia: when looking for pictures for this post, I found an interesting tidbit about the inspiration for Before Sunrise. The night director Richard Linklater spent wandering the streets of Philadelphia with a woman, a night he never forgot and a woman with whom he felt a true connection.
Disturbing airbrushing: look here, where a 40-something woman has to have the body of her 20-something year old self. SO everything Céline rails against.