Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Case for Before After 3

I am a huge fan of the films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, so of course I had to go to the latest instalment, made 18 years after the original came out. 

Before Midnight follows Jesse and Celine and their relationship, picking up nine years after the last film finished.  The banter is the same as ever, though the ambiguity of their relationship has gone: they are now together and have been for a while.

It made me a little nervous to think that this time it’s not all about a brief encounter.  There was no real need to rush and squeeze a huge amount of drama (well, dialogue) into 90 minutes – surely, living together, they would have the opportunity for deep and meaningfuls (or not so) all the time?  The film therefore slowly sets up our two heroes as having a night away from the kids, where they can discuss things frankly and toplessly without the need to tone down their tone for the sake of their little ones’ sensibilities.  

And, for me at least, it worked.  There is not so much flirtation as tension, and while Celine seems to be on the verge of hysteria at some stages, her reaction to Jesse’s ultra-rational approach is sometimes understandable.  There are funny moments and real world problems and some small touching moments as well, all set against the backdrop of a magnificent summer in the stunning Southern Peloponnese.   

There are also more supporting characters in this film.  The couple’s kids, their friends with whom they stay, and even the receptionist staff at their hotel all get to spend at least a little bit of time on screen, some even contributing to some rather lengthy conversations.  Everyone is fairly low key, with no mugging or outrageous gestures, though sometimes the interaction around the dinner table seemed a little forced and unnatural, though that was perhaps unavoidable given what the scene was trying to achieve.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Celine and Jesse respectively) are perfectly at ease with these roles by now (well, not that surprising considering they help write the dialogue and the story) and also with each other.  Delpy’s wandering around half naked for about 15 minutes not seeming at all awkward, while in other films this would be a major event.  Hawke has added more lines to his features and still seems to be losing weight, but he plays the nervous Dad and the (occasionally) resigned and hen pecked husband incredibly well. 

While some of the friction between the two on this night is developed incredibly well, some of it seems to come out of nowhere, and the reactions to this discord similarly veers from understandable to a bit puzzling.  But then, aren’t all relationships at least a little bit confusing to those not involved? 

And that is what is great about this film.  While the others portrayed the joys and beauty of finding love, Before Midnight goes into the rather trickier territory of showing how a relationship endures and changes over time.  And, as you can probably tell, I loved it.

Verdict: Before Midnight once again made me incredibly happy with two of my favourite characters in film.  It’s not really about the romance this time; it’s about the relationship, and for the most part, it succeeds in making the relationship between Celine and Jesse entertaining as well as touching.  I am looking forward to the next one in nine years’ time.  9 pinball machines out of 10.

No comments: