Was it hurtful when your parents put you forward for the role of Damien, aka. The Antichrist, in the 2006 remake of The Omen? Don’t take it too personally, I’m certain they meant well. The casting-call for the role probably just stipulated ‘intense’, not ‘creepy’, ‘chilling’, ‘terrifying’, or any other such synonyms. Yes, I’m sure of it. And anyway, don’t be disheartened, thanks to your performance in Before Midnight, you’ve successfully shrugged off being typecast as Satan’s spawn by portraying the most affable and least obnoxious teenager in the history of film.
Before Midnight continues the distinctly modern romance of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). Nine years after the events of Before Sunset – and a staggering eighteen years since they first met in Before Sunrise – we find that, while the couple has aged, they haven’t necessarily matured. This time, it’s less star-crossed lovers and more crossed wires. In the domesticated adult world, bearing the responsibilities of parenthood and the stress of working life, Jesse and Celine are much more grounded than we might anticipate—after all, these are two people fated to be together, right? But what may come as quite a shock to fans of the previous two instalments is that in many ways, they seem like a rather average, even ordinary, couple.
I realise, Seamus, that I’m assuming you’ve seen the previous two films. I hope you have! I was only six-years old when Before Sunrise was released. I watched it when I was about your age. Most fifteen-year old kids are into action -movies, but some are just born with a sentimental streak.
In case you haven’t seen them, let me fill you in. Each film in this quietly brilliant trilogy has explored what love means at different stages of life. As the protagonists age, as priorities shift and change, their viewpoint on that essential question evolves. Before Sunrise—set when your character, Hank, was just a glint in young Jesse’s eye—was full of youthful optimism and burgeoning romance, with only a hint of world-weary cynicism. Before Sunset flipped that balance, and was more about love lost than love gained.
In contrast, this latest film has an equal balance of romance and pessimism. But the romance has changed. The emphasis is on long-term commitment rather than idealistic and ephemeral one-night encounters in picturesque European cities. Instead of sprawling existential discussions, we have comparatively banal chats about work and kids, interspersed with fiery and tempestuous rows. Seamus, I think it’s clear that Hank is the catalyst for these arguments, as Jesse struggles to reconcile his position as an absentee father with his commitment to Celine. Despite your limited time onscreen, you make a significant impression upon the audience. Especially from Jesse’s guilt-ridden perspective.
Many would have predicted (myself included) that Jesse and Celine would exist in some kind of lover’s paradise following Before Sunset. Yet Before Midnight is much more intelligent than that. It asks serious questions about what it really means to spend your whole life with just one other person. Love may change, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or any less real. Jesse and Celine remain a fascinating pair to spend time with, and if this is indeed the last we’ll see of them, it’s a fitting and emotional farewell.
Will there be a sequel nine years from now? Will we catch up with Hank (and, by extension, you)? I’m not sure. But hopefully, in the meantime, your parents won’t recommend you for any more films involving the Prince of Darkness. Like Jesse, I’ll bet your folks mean well. But damn, being pigeonholed as the origin of all evil is enough to get any kid down.