Tag Archives: julie delpy

Film Review: Before Midnight

before_midnight_4

Nine years after Celine (Julie Delpy) tracked Jesse (Ethan Hawke) down in Paris during his book tour, the couple are still together and are holidaying in Greece with their two children. However, the course of true love never did run smooth, and with Jesse being unhappy at being apart from his son and Celine debating whether to take a new job, some harsh truths come to bear.

When we left Jesse and Celine in Paris nine years ago, they were about to embark on a romantic and happy life together, or at least that’s what we were allowed to imagine. Before Sunset left us the ability to add our own happy ending, but with Before Midnight, we’re back to see exactly how their relationship is panning out. This means that a lot of pressure is heaped upon the shoulders of Before Midnight; it could ruin the whole saga for people or it could elevate it to a new level. For me, I’m glad to say it was the latter.

One of Before Midnight‘s biggest achievements is bringing Jesse and Celine into the real world. In Before Sunrise & Before Sunset, they seemed to exist only in their own little fantasy world, one where their whirlwind romance blocked out the outside world almost entirely. Now, despite being in a picturesque Greek village that easily rivals Paris or Vienna as a setting, the two of them are now very much experiencing the real world and all the problems and responsibilities that come with it. We also actually have some other characters this time around, which although plays with the regular ‘Before’ format a little, also helps to make Jesse and Celine that little bit more real as we see them engaging with other people besides each other.

before-midnight-3

Whilst there is some change in format over the previous two films, everything that makes them special is still present. We still have the in-depth, deep and meaningful conversations perfectly delivered by Delpy and Hawke, the script as tight as ever, with wonderful long takes as the characters bounce back and forth off one another. There is still a slight pretentiousness that envelopes the entire piece, but as one of the couple’s friends actually calls Jesse out on his own pretentious attitude, the film almost feels a little self-knowing in this respect, and therefore it becomes less of an issue.

However, it’s in its final act that Before Midnight really shows what’s up its sleeve. As Jesse and Celine prepare for a rare evening alone without the kids, we see their souls laid bare. We see these characters for what they really are: real people with real conflicts. Up to this point in the saga, we’ve been led to believe that these two are the perfect couple, destined to spend a blissful life together. Here we see a whole other side to Jesse and Celine; a side that highlights their personal strengths but also, and more interestingly, their weaknesses. The whole scene is set in a rather bland hotel room; there’s nothing here but the two of them and an outpouring of repressed feelings. It’s so simple but is as intense as anything else you’ll watch this year.

This brings us to the film’s ending, which is sure to be a bone of contention for some, whilst being the perfect denouement for others. Like both Sunrise and Sunset before it, Before Midnight leaves us in slightly ambiguous fashion, unsure of exactly how Jesse and Celine’s life will pan out. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we’re supposed to be left with a feeling of no matter what happens, no matter who we meet or fall in love with, you never really know what the future holds. All we can be sure of is that Jesse and Celine’s journey thus far has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Double Review: Before Sunrise & Before Sunset

Before Sunrise

Before SunriseJesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have a chance encounter on a train. An instant connection between the two, they both get off the train in Vienna and spend the night getting to know each other knowing that they must part company the following day.

Before Sunrise does sound a little generic but its strength is in its simplicity. Both Ethan and Jesse feel like real people upon whose world we happen to have stumbled upon. Sure, it’s a romantic film but it never feels gratuitous in its fromage; instead we just have two young people who genuinely seem to have a connection and are exploring that in the little time they have together. It’s a situation that is likely to ring true with many, which is another one of its real strengths. So many love stories, whilst undeniably soppy, aren’t all that realistic, whereas Before Sunrise feels like a genuine snapshot of these characters’ lives (it was based on a real encounter director Richard Linklater had with a woman he met in Philadelphia) and that we’re eavesdropping on the start of an actual relationship.

However, whilst the situation itself is one that feels real, some of the dialogue comes across as somewhat forced and a little unbelievable. Ethan quoting W.H. Auden, a street poet writing the world’s most pretentious piece of poetry, and conversations about reincarnation and spirituality just don’t feel in keeping with the film’s naturalistic approach. This isn’t always the case, but when it does happen, it’s a little jarring.

Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy carry their roles superbly and there’s real chemistry between the two, although it’s slightly mystifying as to why, when their encounter comes to an end, they can’t communicate via phone or mail at all. Maybe I missed that part. However, whether you’re a fan of romantic films or not, Before Sunrise is a film that almost everyone will be able to relate to in some way, which is something not many films manage to achieve.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

Before Sunset

Nine years after their night in Vienna, Jesse has written a book about the experience and is promoting it in a bookshop in Paris. When Celine turns up out of the blue, they spend the afternoon together catching up and reminiscing, but with Jesse married with children and Celine also in a relationship, they wonder what could have been.

It would have been easy to make this sequel based six months after Before Sunrise when the two arrange to meet. However, Before Sunset leaves that night in Vienna as an isolated incident, which helps to firmly distinguish the two films and give them a tone that is similar but very much their own.

Both Hawke and Delpy are on top form from the off once again, perfectly capturing the awkwardness that can arise having not seen someone for a long period of time and wondering what on Earth to talk about. They slowly slip back into familiarity and they become much more comfortable around one another once more. There is still real chemistry between the two and it’s clear that that one night had a huge impact on both their lives.

One of the few issues with Before Sunset is a similar issue that cropped up with the first film – the slightly pompous nature of some of the conversations. These two people who have not seen each other in nine years could be talking about their lives and what they’ve been doing, and there is a part of that, but instead there are philosophical and ethical discussions that just don’t feel all that natural. However, this problem is more prevalent in the first portion of the film and later conversations appear much more genuine and consequently carry more emotional weight. Celine’s near breakdown in the back of a car is a particular highlight.

Without the need for an initial meeting like the first film, Before Sunset trims a good chunk off its running time. However, this makes it a much more succinct package and more closely resembles time as it passes in the film. Before Sunrise could have easily existed on its own without the need for this sequel, but Before Sunset does a fine job of taking us back into these characters’ lives and letting us in on the next chapter in their story.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,