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Before Midnight

One of Christopher’s favourite films was Before Sunrise, the 1995 film staring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, about a young couple, Celine and Jesse, who meet by chance on a train, and spend the day (or rather, the night) walking around Vienna talking to each other, before going their separate ways. I don’t know when he first saw it – he watched far more films than I did, but when the sequel Before Sunset came out in 2004 he insisted that I watch both of them in the correct order, and I really enjoyed them both too.

The second film caught up with Celine and Jesse nine years after their first meeting. Jesse is now a novelist who wrote a book about their original encounter and is on a book tour promoting it. Celine recognises the story, and goes along to one of his book-signings. They then spend the day walking around Paris talking, and trying to decide whether to get back together again, despite the fact that he’s now married with child.

Another sequel has just come out, Before Midnight. I really wanted to see it – partly because it’s had good reviews, but mostly because I was curious to see what happened to Celine and Jesse over the past nine years. Unfortunately, Malvern Cinema only put it on for three days – Tuesday and Wednesday evenings this week and a Thursday matinee. I’m really tired at the moment – I know that’s getting to be a bit of a boring refrain, but I’m still getting over the back to back equipment trials, and I’m simply not up to going out in the evenings. So if I wanted to see the film, that meant taking this afternoon off work to go to the matinee. That’s a bit awkward, as I have a milestone report due imminently, but I managed to juggle my workload to keep the afternoon free, booked it as leave, and took myself off to the cinema.

Nine years on from the previous film, Celine and Jesse are still together, and have seven year old twins. The film is set in Greece, and once again the two of them spend most of the time just walking around talking to each other. But this one is a lot darker than the previous two. Jesse is overwhelmed with guilt about the effect that breaking up his marriage is having on his teenage son (who actually looks pretty well adjusted to me), and Celine feels that she gets the blame for everything. Despite the fact that they clearly love each other, they bicker and argue and say more and more hurtful things to one another. It was a bit like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in that respect. I felt like shouting at them “Don’t go for the nuclear option! Stop arguing and LISTEN to each other for a change!”.

I could have done without one of the minor characters, a widow who went on and on in (to me) unnecessary detail about just how much she missed her husband and how she kept imagining she could still see him. That made me wince. And I’m not entirely sure who the film is aimed at – it’s hardly a “date movie”. I think that the brutal honesty about the state of their relationship would be a bit of a downer! Perhaps that’s why Malvern only had it on such limited release. There can’t have been more than a dozen people in the audience this afternoon – it was almost like having a private showing. But overall it was a good film,and I’m pleased I made the effort to get to see it.