Nearly two decades ago Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) crossed paths for the first time on a train and happened to have the greatest day of their lives so far in Vienna together. Nearly one decade ago in Paris they reconnected after not seeing each other since that day in Vienna, different people and finding out what it is that remains after nine years of now knowing what could have been.
Today we meet up with them again, still together after their reconnection in Paris, on vacation in Greece with two daughters (twins) staying at the home of a famous writer that just had to have that weirdly curious American who loves this peculiar French woman and keeps writing about her in his books.
In Before Sunrise we are introduced to the idea of true love. This romantisced idea of love that we used to see in films of the 30s where we’re pining for him and her to get together. However, somehow Linklater along with the personalities of Hawke and Delpy make something new that we would’ve seen happen in a Godard film in the 60s where people are being ‘real people’ as opposed to those characters on screen in the 30s that feel stiff and in a vacuum.
In Before Sunset we get to ask the question if that love died after nine years of being away from one another. It becomes a love that has pain behind it. From Jesse’s disappointment to not seeing her again 6 months after their day in Vienna, to Celine’s anger at how ‘on paper’ happy Jesse’s life has become after it all without her, and them questioning within themselves whether it’s okay for them to try and have the love they once had even with all these problems in the way of that now.
In Before Midnight we see the love that evolved after him staying after a waltz in Paris. It’s the ‘real’ love, as Jesse puts it, where warts and all he wants her still after a decade of knowing this woman. We jump into their lives on this vacation and we just happen to come in on a day that has it’s ups and downs for the couple. We spend the hundred or so minuted with Jesse and Celine piecing together what we’ve missed out on over the last ten years and at the same time figuring out where they stand as a couple today.
I would also make this film comparable to Blue Valentine in how we as an audience invest in these two people as a romantic couple and begin to start trying to figure out where Linklater is taking them. The audience watches on knowing that romantic entanglements have their ups and downs and we watch on in an adorable tone where no matter how dirty and vile and argument may get we still pine for them to remain together so we can have the even more adorable moments live on.
Before Midnight asks us to grow with Celine and Jesse and believe in love eternal while at the same time being practical as the world tries to remind the young about the reality of love. Trying to think of why I love these films I start to question whether I love this third chapter in the series. What began as the adorable cute romance that I pine for as a twenty something and shifted to a conflicting reconnection in the thirties that helped me believe in love has once again changed into something else. However, at the same time it remains with the sole idea of making the audience once again try to believe in true love and that regardless of all the fights and issues that two people may have with one another they will, in some shape or fashion, love each other. That is where I feel this movie resides and wins it’s audience with again. Love.