The moment the movie Before Midnight was shown in theatres, three of my friends who know me from way back asked me right away if I have seen it. I think the fact that they asked proves my reputation as a hopeless romantic. It further proves that I’m exactly the type who wears my heart on my sleeves and memorises all the mushy lines from these romantic movies.
Well, I won’t dispute that. And yes, I have in fact seen Before Midnight. And my verdict is that while it’s a great movie script wise and acting wise, I didn’t rave for it as much as I did with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. And it doesn’t take much reflection to figure out why.
I watched Before Sunrise at a time when the concept of having a soul mate was something I still I believed in. Like totally. So I resonated with the whole meeting-your-one-great-love-on-the-train theme. I was in college at that time, and meeting The One was still a possibility; a happy thought, in fact, that saw me through all the angsts of my teenage years.
Before Sunset, I watched when I was in my late 20s, during that period in my life when I was so sure that love would find me sooner or later. That whole idea of seeing an old flame and realizing how much you are still in love with each other was just too beautiful and inspiring. I remember watching that film and going home hopeful and thinking that maybe The One was someone I’ve already met. Maybe my law school crush was actually The One and we would run into each other during a court hearing and we’ll take it from there, just like in the movie. So yes, at that time, I still believed in The One. And I still believed that no matter how far I was from him, love would eventually bring us together. All these made Before Sunset a wonderful movie in my books.
So as expected, I looked forward to Before Midnight and counted the months before its theatre run. I wanted to see how the story played out and how the characters evolved. What would their dynamics be? How would their conversations sound? And would they still be as witty and quick with their retorts? In this respect, I was not disappointed. I love that the movie’s theme has matured, and that the characters have grown. It’s brilliant how Ethan Hawke was no longer the handsome young writer, and Julia Delpy, no longer the pretty young thing who was exactly the type you’d pick up in a long train ride. I love their new dynamics and how their conversations were no longer just about their brewing sexual tension, but about real life issues and concerns.
However, in contrast to the first two films which made me giddy and hopeful, this movie made me feel sad and hopeless. And it’s not because it was too much reality. In fact, its being realistic is one of the movie’s strongest points. The movie saddened me because at the end of it all, I realised that I stopped evolving with the characters. Unlike the first two films which spoke my language and articulated my feelings, this one revolved around issues that, sadly, are still alien to me. I could no longer own the character’s conversations. Aside from the part that dealt with turning 40 with nothing to show for it, there was nothing much for me to resonate with in the story.
My friends who got married are raving about the film and I can see why. They grew up with the characters. They know how it is to find The One and to find reality setting in after that. They know the feeling of loving someone that much and hating him with the same intensity. They know how it is to have passionate fights with someone you love passionately. They have become like Jesse and Celine. They’ve found their loves and lived their lives.
Me, on the other hand…well… you know the rest of my story.
So while I loved Before Midnight and still consider it a brilliant film all in all, it was too much of a reminder— and a sad reminder at that— of how one aspect of my life has not moved at all after all these years. And of how it might never move in that direction anymore. Ever.
These thoughts have been crossing my mind lately after seeing the film. I’m tempted to watch Before Sunrise and Sunset again just to see if my inner romantic is still well and alive. I have a feeling it still is. But then again, maybe now is not a good time to be reminded of that.