Thursday 19 April 2018

Truth about love shown through rows

Paul Whitington

Film Review: Before Midnight (15A, general release, 109 minutes) 5 STARS

Director: Richard Linklater Stars: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Ariane Labed, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick

Most mainstream romantic films are about the chase, the initial coming together, and the various incidental impediments that are always overcome by true love.

We rarely find out what happened next, five or 10 or 15 years into the golden couple's future, but in Before Midnight Richard Linklater is happy to oblige. This is the third Linklater film to star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, a pair of star-crossed lovers whose meandering conversations seem frighteningly real.

In Before Sunrise, they met and flirted in Vienna; in Before Sunset, they finally succumbed to temptation in Paris.

Now, nine years later, they are a settled couple, with a pair of angelic-looking, blonde twin girls. Jesse left his American wife and child to be with them, and, in a touching and funny opening scene, we watch Jesse bid an awkward farewell to his teenage son Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), who's returning to the US after a family holiday in Greece.

Jesse and Celine are due to leave themselves the next day, and after a dinner with friends they leave to spend a night alone together in a hotel.

But a supposedly romantic evening turns ugly when Celine confronts Jesse about his longing to return to America, and a night of soul-searching and potentially apocalyptic bickering ensues.

Delpy and Hawke co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Linklater: interestingly, Delpy wrote some of Hawke's dialogue, and he penned some of hers. Perhaps as a consequence, Before Midnight has no bias in terms of gender: when Celine and Jesse fight (and boy do they fight), she is unreasonable, he is condescending, and their mutual incomprehension may be the thing that's keeping them together.

Their rows and discussions are beautifully orchestrated, funny, witty, learned and carrying the unmistakable ring of truth, and the film perfectly captures the ease with which a conversation about the price of eggs can escalate in a second to World War Three.

Delpy and Hawke's chemistry and timing seems effortless: they're excellent in this charming, wise, gruelling and very funny film that tells the truth about human relationships – for once.

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