I recently wrote a blog post about two of my favourite films -- "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset", starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. I mentioned there that I was looking forward to the next film in the 'series' --"Before Midnight", which I had put on my LoveFilm list.
Luckily for me, it turned out that I didn't have to wait for "Before Midnight" to appear on LoveFilm, because my lovely husband bought me the DVD for Christmas. We've now found time to watch the film, and here are my thoughts.
True to formula, "Before Midnight" takes place (both in the film and in reality) roughly ten years after the previous film, "Before Sunset". "Before Sunset" closed on a cliffhanger with Delpy and Hawke having just met for the first time after their initial encounter ten years previously. They are still strongly attracted to one another, but Hawke is now trapped in a loveless marriage and has a son. At the end of "Before Sunset" it was entirely unclear whether Hawke would return to his unhappy life in the US or remain with Delpy in Paris.
In "Before Midnight", we learn that Hawke did indeed remain with Delpy in Paris--we catch up with them at the end of a summer spent in Greece with their twin girls, aged six, and Hawke's son, now about to start high school. Seeing his son off at the airport, Hawke begins to question the life that he is now living. He may be living with the woman he loves, but he is missing out on his son's youth entirely.
Hawke and Delpy spend their last evening in Greece together without their children--courtesy of the friends with whom they are staying, who have booked a hotel room for them and are providing babysitting. Instead of being a romantic getaway, though, the evening turns into a full-scale row, with Hawke's fears about his son coming to the fore, and the couple's dissatisfaction with their lives and with one another emerging.
The themes that this film covers will be familiar to any long-term couple with kids--loss of romance over the years, how to combine career and family, how difficult it is for both partners to be fulfilled career-wise, the division of domestic labour, loss of identity, ageing, the 'rational' partner versus the 'emotional' partner...
Needless to say, the tone of "Before Midnight" is quite different from the first two films, which are romantic, focussing on the hopes and aspirations of a couple meeting for the first (and second!) time. In "Before Midnight" the romance is gone and reality has set in. It is not a feelgood film, but it does accurately reflect reality--the reality of an established relationship with children.
And that's exactly what I enjoyed about this film--the reality, something with which we can all identify. It's what I enjoyed about the other two films, as well--I could identify with them since they reflected my own experience and thoughts in my twenties, and then my thirties.
If you're looking for something interesting, provocative and conversation-worthy, the "Before..." trilogy comes highly recommended.