How can you profoundly relate to something you have never experienced before? The answer is good writing and acting. Personally, Before Midnight brought me a glimpse of a chapter I have not read, yet it becomes oddly familiar as it unfolds.
Let’s just board the time machine first and travel back to the before-est of these befores. It was 1994 when Celine and Jesse first met on a train to Vienna. They were young and youthful. You know how the story went, they fell in love and we fell in love with their story. There was something special between this adventurous French girl and this idealistic American boy which was universal and we all felt it or wanted to feel it towards somebody. For some, we shared that connection with the movie.
However, no matter how special one thing could be, fate has a way of making it even more special. Nine years after they first met, Celine and Jesse met again at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris. He was signing books he wrote about her. She was just walking in to see him again. He had a flight scheduled to leave before sunset but they walked on the lovely streets, stopped at a café, argued intellectually and romantically, there were confrontations and you know how it ended. It was probably the most romantic a movie could ever end. She said, “Baby, you’re gonna miss that plane.” He said, “I know”. And just like that, despite how winding the road is we believe in true love again.
But will that ideal love wear off as the complications of maturity piles up ahead of us? Now this is where I lost track of the whole love train. Before Midnight opens with Jesse dropping off his 14 year old son at a Greek airport and Celine is outside watching two little girls inside the car. They are now parents. He is a scruffy looking dad wearing a “Neptune Records” shirt as if hinting “Son, I am a cool dad”. She on the other hand, looks like a plain wife at first close up. Their looks alone suggest that a lot has changed since he missed that plane. But how about the feelings, do they remain the same?
The film goes on to depict a typical mature relationship- with arguments, compromises, sex and a lot of sex. Celine is caught in the middle of the responsibilities of being a mom and her creative desires, while Jesse is caught up in his own creative pursuit and guilt over his irresponsibility as a father to a son who can’t live with him. She complicates things. He simplifies it for her. Suddenly, the girl does not think they are on the same page anymore and the guy would reiterate that he is exactly the same guy she met on that train 18 years ago. He was driving her crazy, crazy enough to declare that she does not love him anymore. But he loves her, he loves her enough to put up with her craziness. They are exactly the same character, only in different circumstances.
Seeing how Jesse and Celine fell in love with each other made me want to ride that train across Europe and talk to a random guy and pretend I am eloquent. But seeing how they argue made me want to just take the shortcut to that mature relationship where you can confront the other person without affecting too much regret in the future, because a few hours after you’ll realize how much you have sacrificed to build that longstanding connection, so precious you can’t break it, which in a way is a perfect manifestation of how powerful that true love can be.
After the movie, I said “I have a beef with Richard Linklater, women are not as crazy as that.”I watched the film with two of my friends who are actually married to each other. My friend replied, “No. The movie is so right.” She is thirty something. Then I answered, “Yeah. Maybe, I’m just not there yet.”