We are talking about “Before Midnight,” the new movie from the series that started in “Before Sunrise” in 1995 and continued with “Before Sunset” in 2004.
This movie is more mature compared with the previous films that had been put nine years apart. The characters and actors are older, the circumstance more difficult and perplexing, but the conversations (with the walking that happens to take up most of the film) have remained the starkly snarky and pedantic exchanges we have grown to love about the movie.
Director Richard Linklater, whose “Dazed and Confused” is a well-loved growing-up movie, has cowritten the script with the actors, the American Ethan Hawke (who plays Jesse) and the French Julie Delpy (Celine).
In “Before Sunrise,” Jesse and Celine meet on a train from Budapest to Vienna, where he’s supposed to take the plane back to the US, while she’s on her way home to Paris. Invoking carpe diem, and since he does not have money for a hotel, he convinces her to spend the evening with him walking around Vienna before his flight at sunrise.
There’s a slight indication that they make love and, parting in the morning, promise to meet again in six months.
In “Before Sunset,” the two accidentally meet in Paris, where Jesse is on a book tour as a successful novelist. It turns out that they didn’t get to meet six months after their parting, so they try to catch up before he leaves before sunset.
In the end, we are left with the uncertainty of their fate: Whether Jesse stays or not is a big question.
In the 2013 follow-up, we are provided with the answer, which is not so much of a shock, after all.
So the new movie is set in Greece, and Jesse and Celine are now together with the burden of two beautiful twins. They are headed to the home of a writer who has invited them over after reading Jesse’s novels.
Jesse, of course, has made a name for himself as a writer, while Celine, still stuck on the crossroads, wants to be an environmentalist.
He is not as emaciated as he was in “Before Sunset,” but rather portly; she’s a little pallid with a bulging lower abdomen (puson in Tagalog), but still beautiful and with that sexy hoarse voice emitting sybilline French-accented English.
Their writer-friend hosts a dinner for them, two other couples, and his aged friend. The two couples are contrasted with one another: one young and the other old, who, at close range, do not really differ. So all of them at the dinner strike up conversations, jumping from one topic to the other, such as cybersex, and Celine aping a blonde bimbo.
But what is poignant in the film is to see four generations of lovers exchanging sentiments and insights that are, after all, relatable to all ages.
Thriving on dialogue
The movie again thrives on dialogue more than the plot. The film plays with lengthy takes, following Jesse and Celine as they walk the streets of Greece, reminiscing the past and in between bickering like the two characters we witnessed in the first movie.
The Linklater trilogy has created a large cult following, all hopeless romantics who fantasize for themselves a similar meeting of “strangers on a train.”
What I love about the trilogy is that it affords the viewers to see the development of the characters played by actors of the same age and sensibilities. The audience sees how they start as two overzealous 20-something students wanting something novel in their lives, and then transform into two jaded adults, one who is lovelorn and the other whose love is lost. However languorous, their conversations are engaging.
The new movie will surely open up long conversations among friends over coffee and beer that will try to divine what will be next for the two lovers. In a way, this is the secret to the movie. A movie series largely about meandering conversations, it is itself a conversation piece.