In a day and age where a family living in the same house text each other, if even just a few metres away from one another, it’s reassuring to know Jesse and Celine, the star-crossed lovers of 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and its 2004 sequel “Before Sunset”, are out there still talking. And talking. And talking some more.
One of the great melee-movie series of all time, the time-specific “Before” films chronicle the relationship of an American man (Ethan Hawke) and a French woman (Julie Delpy) who, on one fateful night in the ’90s, meet on a Vienna-bound train. Over the course of a night, the duo would sit, walk and predominately, talk — talk a lot, ultimately falling in love.
What starts off as merely as a night of seemingly fleeting young love, would be rekindled ten years later when the twosome would meet again for the sequel – with “Sunset” also essentially a couple of hours with two clearly compatible people conversing in deep, intriguing conversation about anything and everything as they stroll about some of France’s most beautiful locations. And yes, falling back in love.
France isn’t back for the sequel – which, like the last, comes nine years after its previous chapter – but our long-committed couple, now older and wiser (though Celine might argue Jesse is still the same cheeky, ladies man she met twenty years ago) are, as is all that engaging prattle we love to watch them partake in.
We meet Jesse and Celina nine years on. He’s in his early forties, she’s in her late thirties. They’ve been together since the ‘will they or won’t they?’ question left hanging at the end of the previous installment. Though based in France, they’re currently stationed in Greece, where he’s working on his book, and she’s spending her time with their twin daughters and mulling over an exciting job opportunity. Most of the movie concerns a brewing argument between Jesse and Celine over the job she’s been offered, and his need to spend more time with his son – from a previous marriage – which would involve relocating everyone to the states. What starts as a casual, putting-it-out there conversation about what the next phase in their lives should entail, ends in a large brouhaha in a hotel room where a tornado of emotions and unsaid truths come to the surface.
This time it’s not so much about a couple coming together, as it is a couple staying together.
The “Before” movies deserve a category all of their own, they really are unlike anything that’s ever been put on Kodak before. At its core they’re simply filmed plays, where two characters talk about different topics before an audience; but through the talk and through watching highly relatable, very familiar characters we get a story and a chance to catch up with a couple that, by now, feel like old friends.
“Before Midnight”, helmed by the first two films’ director Richard Linklater (who co-wrote the script for the latest instalment with the actors), is as solid and as engrossing a movie as the previous two films in the potentially unending saga are. It mightn’t encompass as many ‘sparks’, or be as good a date movie as the first two were, but that’s not so much to do with the film as it is to do with where the characters are at that point in their relationship . If it had played to the same beats and carry the same feel-good tone of the highly romantic originals, it wouldn’t have been believable.
No, Judd Apatow… This is ’40’.
See you in 9 years, Jesse and Celine.