Saturday, February 14, 2015

Before Midnight

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) accompanies his teenage son to a Greek airport for his trip back to America, while Celine (Julie Delpy) waits for him back in the car with their twin daughters. It has been nine years since they took a chance on their second meeting in Paris, with his missed flight becoming the start of their life together. Their discussions about life are now more oriented towards family, the constant source of their conflicts being his preoccupation with his son and how he could not be with him back in the US to make sure he grows up with a father in these crucial years. Their six-week vacation culminates in a heated argument about their status as a couple, as well as the other complications that their current setup has brought about for both of them, hinting that they might well be on the path to calling it quits.

Following the tradition set by the first two movies, this one comes after nine years. Two decades into the franchise now, surely there should be evolution not just with the characters themselves, but also with the storyline. The producers could have just chosen to once again thread the path of endless second chances had they decided to break the two of them up again just to set them up for another chance encounter almost a decade later. People eventually get old, and they are probably thinking of “growing up” with the generation who has subscribed to this unusual love story.

It is because of this that you might not enjoy this installment as much as you did the other two. Why so? The reason is simply because it would take you and your very own experiences to be able to relate to these two’s dilemma, which has now graduated to family life. If you are just new to the series and opted for a one-night marathon, that gap in between the movies would not be too substantial for you to enjoy the final one. We are human beings after all. We could know all we want, but it is only through experience that we get to learn the more valuable things in life. I am sure that I would better appreciate Part 3 if I see it a decade from now, but for the meantime, it just feels a bit too heavy to watch.

Yes, that might be a good explanation. The first two movies dealt so much with the chase. The conflicts in Part 1 was all about taking chances, while the sequel tackled the what-if scenarios. Part 3 is simply what was theoretical then, turned into reality now. As such, we are at that part where we see more of the consequences of their choices rather than what were just potential results in the last two movies.

This might consequently bore you, because somehow you could not play with your imagination as much as you did in the first and second installments. Here, you just sit back and witness the deconstruction of the fairy tale. And so they finally decided to take a chance, now what? This is the “now what” part.

Staying true to tradition, there is still a lot of insightful dialogue involved here, and the good thing is that the cast is expanded a little bit which means more viewpoints contributing to the discourse, predominantly about love and relationship in modern times. After all, this franchise has spanned almost twenty years now and the comparison could not really be avoided.

What is perhaps different now is that the element of time seems more relaxed. Jesse is not catching a plane anymore. The title could be alluding to a probable breakup before the day ends, thus “Before Midnight” but we could never really tell because the director opted for an open ending once again. If anything, the title could be interpreted figuratively, referring to the state of a relationship that might or might be ending soon. Come to think of it, the only pressing thing hounding the couple now is whether they would stay together or not, which is obviously way more problematic than missing your flight.

It would be nice to see Before Dawn, or whatever the cast and crew could think of come 2022. With almost another decade added to the timeline, the cult following this franchise has already amassed would definitely like to know what happens to Jesse and Celine, not because of sheer curiosity, but also because they would want to have something to compare to their very own lives. After all, the series has evolved into some sort of a mirror of the typical stages modern human life has to go through, and seeing another sequel is like checking up on a friend you have not seen for a long time, for the sake of schadenfreude.

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