going, going, gone: 'Before Midnight' is a story about love

/ 31 July 2013 /
Maybe I was too excited. Maybe I was drunk on kilig. Maybe I trusted too much on Richard Linklater's ambiguous endings. Whatever it was, I sure as hell got my rude awakening after I watched Before Midnight.

Why? Let me borrow the tagline of another movie, because it aptly describes this one.

Before Midnight is not a love story; it's a story about love.

"Still there... Still there... Gone."

There was a scene in Before Sunset where Jesse talks about an ambiguous ending being a test to see if you're a cynic or a romantic. "Before Midnight" tries to become that test, but my results read "Romantic Who, For Once, Takes The Side Of A Cynic".

Set in picturesque Greece, this third -- and hopefully, last -- installation in the "Before" series is so much different from the previous two. We got used to Jesse and Celine taking long, aimless walks, talking about anything from cats to spirituality. But in Before Midnight, the walks are snappier and the talks seem to have a common underlying theme: ending.

In fact, in one important scene (which was unfortunately revealed in the trailer), the couple spends a few minutes just watching the sun set, as Celine simply narrates: "Still there... Still there... Gone."

These words somehow reflect on almost every other scene in the movie. There's a quiet fading to them: The conversations go from cute to cumbersome. During the meal shared with their hosts, the discussion transitions from being about young love to -- tadaah -- being widowed. And get this [SPOILER]: a very intimate moment between the main characters quickly turns into a yell-fest.

Several times throughout the movie, we see our hero and heroine become tired, angry, even jaded. Celine is especially frustrated while Jesse is conflicted within himself. It's painful to watch.

"I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing."

But as many times as the moments turn bitter, we also see little redemptions. Someone makes an effort to reach out, and the pair falls back into nice conversation.

And isn't this what love is supposed to mean? It does not guarantee a fairy-tale ending -- instead, it's exhausting as fuck. Anyone who wants to stay in it actually has to work for it. Over and over and over again.

In this sense, Before Midnight wraps up the trilogy perfectly. Before Sunrise was about the falling, the crazy, head-over-heels, we-have-an-intense-connection falling. Before Sunset was about giving it a chance, making a choice, taking a leap. And Before Midnight? This is where the excitement ends and the exhaustion sets in -- just the way it always does.

Needless to say, it's the most realistic of the three.

Sure, it still ends ambiguously. Sure, you can still say they will live a happily ever after. But from a Romantic Who, For Once, Takes The Side Of A Cynic, take this movie as a cue to stop drowning in cutesy-kilig and live in reality every once in a while.


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