Photo by Despina Spyrou
Third time’s charming: Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) reunite, among the Cypress groves of the southern Peloponnese.
Third collaboration offers more ‘naturally eloquent conversation’
BY RANIA RICHARSON | Set among the Cypress groves of the southern Peloponnese, the third installment of this indie romance continues the story of Jesse, a writer and Celine, an activist, who are now the domesticated parents of twin girls.
Like director Richard Linklater’s predecessors, “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004), “Before Midnight” was written with its two lead actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. This collaboration has created a naturally eloquent conversation that flows organically on matters both philosophical and quotidian, and fills in the details of the couple that met and fell in love on a train trip almost 20 years ago.
The film opens at the Kalamata Airport, as Jesse tearfully sends his adolescent son home to his mother in Chicago, after a summer in Greece. Jesse and Celine spend their last vacation day musing over the meaning of life and love and the future of a relationship that has been rocky ever since Jesse left his wife for Celine, in events that followed the middle film of the trilogy. (In “Before Sunset,” Jesse sees Celine again after many years, and they realize their initial meeting in “Before Sunrise” was more than a fluke — they are soul mates.)
The pair is staying at the guesthouse of a British writer who admires Jesse’s work. Other guests, young and old, include Athina Rachel Tsangari (director of last year’s avant-garde film “Attenberg,” and a co-producer of this film). Around the lunch table, the house guests discuss the differences between men and women and debate friendship versus passion. Celine does a hilarious imitation of a Marilyn Monroe-like “bimbo” to prove that men fall for doting females.
The couple leave for a walk through narrow winding paths amidst stone houses and roaming goats, enjoying light banter — but when they end up at their destination, a luxury hotel, their conversation devolves into bickering, accusations of infidelity and fear for the future. Jesse worries that he will not spend enough time with his son, and Celine is concerned that she is being turned into a submissive housewife. She thinks that he is happy to leave all household chores to her “and take a two hour contemplative walk in the olive trees with Socrates.” She has forgotten that Jesse was so committed that he moved to Paris to be with her. He asks that she stop trying to change him.
What was supposed to be a romantic final evening in Greece becomes a nasty fight. Can a midnight rendezvous at an outdoor café turn things around? We’ve been rooting for this appealing, articulate couple for quite some time, and they do not disappoint.