Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), together again, this time for the third and possibly the most poignant and charming time in Before Midnight, the new film from writer and director Richard Linklater. Now we fast forward 9 year, where they are at the tail end from their vacation in Greece. Jesse is saying goodbye to his son Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) after another summer together. Jesse and his ex-wife do not get along, which has put a strain and obstacle in the way of being there for his son in the prime years of his life. It also seems to be putting a strain in his and Celine’s relationship.
And that’s the crucial point that unravels the lives of our two main characters throughout this film. Jesse wants nothing more than to have his son living with him. Celine would love this as well, but she takes it in the more realistic way possible, considering this as a crack in what their relationship dam, and sooner or later, she thinks Jesse will resent her for not letting him be closer to his son. Jesse tries insisting this won’t happen, because he loves her and that’s all that should matter. All this while he’s coming up with new ideas for his next novel, having completed his third book a bit ago. And that’s another source of conflict that seems to have been growing for years now.
What’s truly amazing about this third film in the Jesse and Celine saga, is that this is possibly the most realistic depiction of a relationship, especially after many years being together and having certain annoyances, fears and anger peeling away layers of comfort and love from a relationship. We see the two being cute with one another and we can tell they love each other, but a small fight becomes a bigger fight. Someone leaves in anger and comes back and the conversation continues. This is something that, while comical, is a reality of two people who have been together and have passion for one another. The love will be strong, as will the fighting. And considering Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy once again helped write the screenplay gives their depiction that much more insight into relationships in general.
Before Sunrise was a sad tale, two people finding one another by chance on a train to Vienna and how the love of your life could be so much, even when spending one night together. Before Sunset shows Jesse having written a book about their brief encounter and going on tour in Europe because of its popularity and runs into Celine again and is a tale of happiness and that, even after 9 years apart, their love was real and stronger than ever. Before Midnight is a realistic tale of love, where we see a love that might be wearing out and we’re left with questions when the credits start to roll. One wishes that we might get something like Before Dusk or Before Dawn down the line. The possibilities are truly endless.
Richard Linklater should be given a bit more credit as an auteur. I’m not sure where he was pushed aside by Steven Soderbergh for being the most versatile and eclectic director in America, because Linklater gives Soderbergh a run for his money. And in the case of Before Midnight, Linklater has created an amazing trilogy, a much better one than Soderbergh was involved with. Yes, the two don’t have anything to do with one another, but the point is that Linklater has taken the characters of Celine and Jesse on a journey spanning 18 years and could keep going on every 9 years if the parties wish to continue. It’s a story we’re all familiar with; love and life, which makes it that much more interesting.