Picking up another nine years later, Before Midnight provides a definitive answer to all your questions and paints a very real picture of long-term love. We find Jesse and Céline in Greece at the end of a summer-long holiday spent with some of Jesse’s literary colleagues on an idyllic island getaway. As we had all hoped, he did indeed miss his plane in Paris and has since started a new life with Céline. They have twins – a pair of mini-Célines - and the spark of chatty excitement that originally brought them together is clearly still present. It’s nice.
However it’s not all sunshine and roses. Their new life together came at a cost – namely, Jesse’s son Hank and a particularly bitter ex-wife. The latter he can deal with, despite her spiteful litigiousness and intense dislike for Céline but it’s the growing distance between his estranged son that’s the real kicker. Hank has been staying with them all summer and when the time comes for him to head home, it’s clear the long distance thing is taking its toll on the paternally paranoid Jesse.
This sensitive issue forms the backbone of Before Midnight. The fiercely independent Céline feels threatened; convinced that Jesse won’t be happy until she's swapped her career aspirations for housewife duty in the States. Jesse meanwhile is unwilling to give up the happily ever after he fought so hard to get yet feels convinced that some compromise must be made. All this tension comes to a head during a kid-free date night in a cushy Greek hotel, transforming what should be the perfect evening into a raging argument.
It can be a little painful watching the cracks emerge as this once joyful couple go for each other’s throats but it’s undeniably real. A bittersweet reminder of the sometimes difficult reality of long-term romance. What happens when the honeymoon period ends and the day-to-day reality kicks in? You’re soberly reminded of your own individuality and how hard it can be to keep two people on one path for a prolonged period. People grow, and sometimes they grow apart. It can be heartbreaking.
Linklater’s not cruel though, he’s just a realist and this stark honesty actually makes Before Midnight stronger. When all’s said and done and the dust has settled, he’s keen to remind us why we joined him, Jesse and Céline on this journey in the first place. Things aren’t tied up in a nice bow but in real life they never are. Jesse and Céline have both fought hard for their relationship and hopefully this won’t be the last time we see them together.