‘Before Midnight’ as charming as its predecessors

By Claire Lee
  • Published : May 20, 2013 - 20:05
  • Updated : May 21, 2013 - 09:39
They are now in their 40s, with more responsibility on their shoulders and more to lose.

Meet Celine and Jesse again, this time as a long-term, committed couple.

After its very successful world premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January, the follow-up to the famous “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004) was finally unveiled to the local press last week. Titled “Before Midnight,” the latest installment of the trilogy turned out to be equally ― if not more ― compelling as its predecessors, delving into a variety of themes including aging, kids, career and the “what ifs” and “should haves.”
A scene from “Before Midnight,” which is to be released in Korea on Thursday. (Movie and Eye)

Its well-loved protagonists ― Celine and Jesse again played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke ― are now living together in Europe, raising their twin daughters together.

The trilogy’s director, Richard Linklater, first introduced us to the characters almost two decades ago. The young dreamers’ first encounter took place on a train bound for Vienna. The American man and the French woman are now in their 40s, and it turns out, they’ve been in a long-term relationship since their Paris-encounter nine years ago.

The film begins as Hank, Jesse’s teenage son from his previous marriage, says bye to his father at a Greek airport. After spending his summer with Jesse, Celine and his half-sisters in the European country, Hank is going back to Chicago, where he lives with his mother ― Jesse’s ex-wife. 

Hank’s mother is still upset with Jesse, who left her for Celine and left the U.S. for Europe, which makes his relationship with Jesse difficult as well. Jesse, who only gets to see Hank about once a year, feels sad that he is missing out on Hank’s life and the days he misses can never be brought back.

After Hank leaves, Jesse and Celine continue on with their vacation on the Greek island at the invitation of a British author. Just like its predecessors labeled as “walkie-talkies,” the couple make engaging ― and often intense, intelligent and hilarious ― conversations about their relationship, Hank, the girls, and careers, while walking around the beautiful and scenic Greek town.

Viewers learn that Jesse has continued to enjoy success as an author ― in “Before Sunset,” he ran into Celine in Paris during a promotional tour of his book, which he wrote based on his brief romance with Celine in Vienna ― and has been rather busy with promotional book tours and other writing engagements. He has been mostly happy with his life in Europe with Celine, though he is increasingly worried about Hank who lives with with his unhappy ex-wife in Chicago.

Celine, on the other hand, is rather at a career crossroads. The intelligent yet intense Parisian ― who worked as an advocate for the environment in “Before Sunset” nine years ago ― feels she had to give up “too much of herself” by becoming a mother and raising the girls ― while Jesse was often away on his book tours.

She is considering a job in government in Paris, though she isn’t too sure if she’d be happy working there. She is slightly jealous of Jesse’s successful career, and gets instantly upset when he suggests moving to Chicago with the twins. She doesn’t want to “give everything up” ― including the job offer in Paris which she is mulling over ― and move to Chicago so Jesse can spend more time with Hank.

“Before Midnight,” though it may not be as romantic as its predecessors, cleverly touches on choices made in the past, and how paying the price for the choices ― though they also contribute to happiness ― can be often painful and sad, as they inevitably involve losing things considered important. Celine and Jesse chose to be together and have children. Jesse divorced his wife and left his son, while Celine seems to have taken a break from her career to raise the girls. “Before Midnight” is about the price they have to pay for the choices they made as grown-ups in the pursuit of their happiness.

However, it isn’t only filled with disillusionment and misery. Hawke, who is a writer in real-life, and Delpy, who was raised by her avant-garde actress and feminist mother, created a highly entertaining and often humorous script ― the two wrote the screenplay along with Linklater ― which reflect their own lives and personalities in real-life. Celine’s intense feminist remarks, especially, about parenting and double-labor, is almost cathartic, though overly dramatic.

“Before Midnight” opens in theaters in Korea on Thursday.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)