When I think of big, classic love stories what usually springs to mind is the likes of Romeo and Juliet. I was never a fan of Romeo and Juliet; in fact, there are a lot of classic love stories that I find myself having a hard time getting behind. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just aren’t my cup of tea.
However, every once in a while, some form of media will throw a romance at me that I instantly fall for (not unlike the people falling for each other in the story – meta!). One of those movies was Before Sunrise. I wasn’t nearly old enough to appreciate it when it came out, but I recently managed to watch it.
I then immediately watched the sequel, Before Sunset, and it quickly became one of my favorite movies ever. Going in, though, I felt a lot of trepidation since the first one was incredibly good. I was afraid the second one was going to be terrible, yet I managed to like it even more than the first.
Now there’s a third chapter of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine’s (Julie Delpy) love story, so you can understand how I’d be worried how it would turn out. After finally getting to see it, I’m torn.
Taking place nine years after the previous film, Before Midnight throws our main duo into a long-term relationship. Jesse now has an adolescent boy with the ex-wife from Before Sunset and twin girls with current love Celine. Instead of separating and finding each other nine years later like the first two films did, the two stayed together following the last movie.
Basically, the relationship has matured past the honeymoon stage – which was all we ever got to see the first time around – and it’s gotten to the point where the couple has to live out an everyday, 24/7 existence with one another.
While the film is good (very good, in fact) it does feel like kind of a letdown after the first two.
First, let me talk about the great points: it’s broken up into roughly three small segments, there are long takes of dialogue that are all excellent, and the film explored different types of relationships and the endurance of love. That is all great stuff, and the fact that the actors manage to keep things interesting throughout is not an easy feat.
However, it’s for this exact reason that I was also disappointed in the film. If the movie had explored these themes with random strangers, it would have been fantastic. Having gone through two movies with these characters, it’s kind of depressing to see the normality they’ve fallen into.
I get it, that’s exactly the point of this movie – okay, maybe not that married life is depressing, that’s mainly me impressing my own ideas onto the movie – but to show where the love story lands once the rebellious lovers have settled down and had kids.
It’s all played very well and the writing and actors make it all work. I expect my disappointment stems more from myself than the movie itself. At this stage of my life, I’m much closer in age to the characters as they were in the first film and much more capable of fitting into their shoes.
So, the stuff that comes later, everyday life and all the monotony (and the amazing, wondrous stuff, too) is more of a cavern of depression than ripe movie territory. I don’t really have enough life experience to fully appreciate that aspect of a love story yet, but I am fully capable of understanding the ups and downs of the first two films.
I’m betting years from now, when I’ve actually been in a relationship for more than ten minutes, I will fall in love with this movie like I did the first two (the alternative, more likely scenario is that I’ll end up as an old cat man who will die only knowing the love of his cats). Right now, though, it just feels like a bleak yet well-acted and scripted final chapter.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Runtime: 1hr 49min