BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater, 2013)
Jesse and Celine are characters that have become dear to us throughout the years, up to the point that we know them so intimately as if they are our personal friends, and we welcome them with open arms to a sumptuous lunch (or dinner) after nine long years of absence.
This is the effect of BEFORE MIDNIGHT, Richard Linklater's conclusion (or is it?) to his romantic trilogy that captivated audiences worldwide, and redefined the romantic genre forever. As the film opens, we see Jesse bading goodbye to his son (from a previous marriage) at the airport, and afterwards, he drives to the sprawling Greek countryside with Celine in the passenger seat, and two beautiful young girls sleeping in the back (whom we learn are Jesse and Celine's twins). A lengthy conversation ensues during the drive, that somewhat culminates in Celine saying "this is how relationships end," foreshadowing later events in the film.
They attend a sumptuous dinner hosted by their artist friend Patrick (Walter Lasally), and a lively multi-generational discussion about love, marriage and relationships transpires. Patrick relates about how he and his late wife were always two separate persons, never one. Meanwhile, Jesse and Celine's own relationship issues are brought to the table. The dinner concludes with Jesse and Celine forced to stay at a hotel that their friends have paid for as a gift.
The tension escalates. What was once a romantic flirtation in BEFORE SUNRISE, and somehow evolved into a nostalgic reunion in BEFORE SUNSET, now transformed into marital breakdown, which makes for a study of how two people mature in their relationship and what lengths they'd go through to fight for each other. The hotel room climactic verbal joust is highly intense. We root for Celine as she embrace her feminism; at the same time we consider Jesse's arguments about Celine being unreasonable, and from the way she's acting she may in fact be the "...f***ing mayor of Crazytown". But in the end we still want them to resolve their differences. Watching them fight is like watching real life. Jesse and Celine are not only characters anymore in a movie but real people.
They flirt, they fight, we giggle, we cry. Every word uttered is like a sharp needle to the chest, every frame a breathless beauty. Again, we don't know for sure what's going to happen in the end, and that's the beauty of uncertainty, because movies always tend to resolve everything in the end. From the example of Linklater's trilogy, we are able to form our own interpretation, and wonder at the infinite possibilities.