One of cinema’s most charming — and chatty — love stories began nearly 20 years in Before Sunrise when a wannabe American novelist named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) met a beautiful young Parisienne named Celine (Julie Delpy) on a European train. After a few romantic hours they parted, only to meet unexpectedly a decade later in Paris, a chance encounter portrayed in Before Sunset. Trapped in the messiness of their individual circumstances, these seeming soul mates once again poured out their hearts to each other while walking the streets of Paris for one sunny, conversation-filled day.
And now, nine years later, we come to Before Midnight — and how things have changed. It is safe to assume that that reunion back in the City of Light ended on an electrifyingly erotic note, because these once-star-crossed lovers are now thoroughly enmeshed in each others lives, complete with adorable twin girls, a house in Paris, and a sexy but still angst-filled relationship that gives them more to talk about than ever.
The action has moved temporarily to Greece, where Jesse, now a respected novelist, is at the end of a six-week “writer’s retreat.” Several people are there and we are treated to lively and candid conversations, both in the kitchen and during a meal taken on a patio overlooking the wine-dark Aegean. Big topics like love and loss are discussed by everyone from starry-eyed 20-year-olds to an aging widow, and everything seems imbued with wry wisdom in a timeless world where a ripely perfect tomato has as much value as the philosophy of Plato.
So, with themes of romance thus outlined, we follow our two loquacious lovers for a day and night. At the film’s beginning we learn that Jesse is anguished at being a long-distance dad (he’s just sent his 12-year-old son back to Boston where he lives with Jesse’s ex-wife). But Celine has no desire to live anywhere but Paris, and half-jokingly suggests that they are already starting to break up. And as their simple day unfolds the two have long, gloriously meandering conversations that flash with humour, passion … and increasing moments of anger.
Midnight was written by Hawke, Delpy, and director Richard Linklater, and comes to a satisfying conclusion — especially for a one-off project never meant to be a trilogy. And given the enthusiastic response to this film, there is obviously a lot of interest in where Jesse and Celine may take their roller coaster romance in the future. M
Before Midnight ★★★½
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
R – 108 minutes
Opens Friday at the Odeon
Although not to everyone’s taste, the Greek liqueur ouzo is a classic drink for those who like libations with strong hints of licorice. Originally hailing from the fabled Isle of Lesbos — although a fiery and manly drink for all of that – ouzo reached a more international audience when absinthe fell into disfavour a century ago. Usually sipped straight up, this anise-flavoured spirit can also be mixed with water and served over ice. In Greece it is usually accompanied with a small plate of appetizers such as olives and feta cheese. The LDB lists only one brand, Tsantalis, which retails for under $23.