Before Midnight, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise

September 06, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

These movies starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are  a trilogy   directed by Richard Linklater.They feature a couple in the beginning of their courtship, several years later when they make their commitment, and finally a decade after that when they are coping with the mundane experiences of their domestic life.

The first, Before Sunrise, features the couple meeting and talking all night on a train in Vienna. They are young, compellingly beautiful, with their whole life before them. They connect passionately and then move on agreeing to meet at a later date and time.

The second movie, Before Sunset, is set in Paris  9 years later. Jesse [ Ethen Hawke ] has written a novel about their encounter and is promoting it when Celine, [ Julie Delpy ] shows up. They reconnect and talk and talk till the end when Jesse has to decide whether to get on a plane and go back to his wife, life and young son in America. There is much to learn from this movie about realistic relationships and realistic courtship. It’s slow, with no car chases or killer sex.

The third and, in my opinion, the best movie, is Before Midnight. Here we see the couple on a seemingly idyllic holiday in Greece with their adorable twin girls. It opens with Jesse trying to have a close goodbye moment with his 12-year old son before sending him back to Chicago and his alcoholic mother. We see the awkwardness, the torment and grief for Jesse in sending his son away and not being able to reach him. This movie depicts better than most the anguish and torn loyalties involved in a second marriage, even a romantic, passionate one.

In this movie Jesse has made it as a novelist. He has worked hard promoting himself and been away from home while his 2 daughters were young. Celine, like mothers everywhere, has given up her dreams to create a home for the family. Will she do so again so Jesse can be close to Hank, his son, in Chicago?.  None of this is very dramatic. It is ever  so delightfully, realistically done, I could’ve listened to these two bicker forever. Body language, facial expressions, dialogue was intriguing, intimate. I felt like I wanted to know them. I was rooting for them but wasn’t clear they had it in them to come through the crisis.

Celine’s angry resentment was achingly articulated over and over – just like many people do when they are desperate and stuck and they sense their partner does not much care for the change that’s needed or the opportunity being presented. Celine is offered a great job which she wants to take and Jesse does everything he can to sabotage the idea. Selfish, vain, caught up in feelings he can’t fix, he’s lost interest in change and her songs, her dreams.

These forms of marital sadism occur in many long term committed relationship. They are the grist of the marital mill providing opportunities for individual maturity and ever lasting patient love. These situations making us better people when we can become more authentic.

It is clear that Jesse and Celine love each other. Yet they have different agendas and needs. Jesse  cannot walk away so easily a second time, but Celine can and she threatens that. I won’t tell you the ending, just let me say I am dying to see the fourth episode five years from now. Why wait for 9?

Best movie ever about real relationships, real sloppy love, and the changes that are required to keep it passionate, at least  some of the time.






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