LIFE TAKES ITS TOLL

Be­fore Midnight Pa­cific Rim

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Stephen Romei

National re­lease

(M) ★★ National re­lease

O(MA15+) ★★★✩✩

✩✩ NE of the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters in Be­fore Midnight shares some in­for­ma­tion, gleaned from a friend who works as a nurse on a coma ward, that is per­ti­nent to this third in­stal­ment in Richard Lin­klater’s un­con­ven­tional French-Amer­i­can love story. When women wake from ac­ci­dent-in­duced un­con­scious­ness, their first thought, ap­par­ently, is to ask if their loved ones are OK. Men in the same sit­u­a­tion ask if their pe­nis is OK.

I say sup­port­ing char­ac­ter be­cause while this film has a lively satel­lite cast it is all about the two leads, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Ce­line (Julie Delpy). And fans who have been with them since the be­gin­ning would be dis­ap­pointed if it were oth­er­wise.

It comes as a mild sur­prise to re­alise that be­gin­ning — Be­fore Sun­rise — was al­most 20 years ago. Lin­klater’s take on life isn’t go­ing to res­onate with ev­ery­one, but here he taps a univer­sal feel­ing: one day you are 20 and have it all be­fore you, the next day, or so it seems, you are 40 and your quiet fear is that most of it is be­hind you.

In Be­fore Sun­rise, which di­rec­tor Lin­klater cowrote with Kim Krizan, Jesse, an Amer­i­can, and Ce­line, who is French, meet on a train out­ward bound from Bu­dapest. Both are headed home, both have suf­fered a re­la­tion­ship break-up. He per­suades her to get off with him in Vi­enna and they spend the night walk­ing the city, talk­ing, talk­ing, talk­ing and — why not? — fall­ing in love, at least a lit­tle. They part but agree to re­unite in the same city in six months.

Much of the sparky dia­logue in that film was cred­ited to im­pro­vi­sa­tion by the two stars and by the time of the se­quel, Be­fore Sun­set in 2004, they shared the screen­writ­ing cred­its with Lin­klater and Krizan. It’s nine years later in the film’s world, too, and Jesse is a suc­cess­ful writer, hav­ing made a splash with an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal novel in­spired by his night with Ce­line. He’s mar­ried with a young son. But not to Ce­line: un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances thwarted their planned ren­dezvous. Then one day he’s pro­mot­ing the book in Paris and who is in the au­di­ence but Ce­line, of course. They spend the day to­gether, yakking their heads off, and as night looms end up in a ho­tel room.

An­other nine years on and we have a fair idea of what hap­pened. Jesse and Ce­line are in their early 40s, are mar­ried with twin daugh­ters (aged about 10) and live in Paris. How­ever, the drama of Be­fore Midnight un­folds in pic­turesque south­ern Greece, where the cou­ple has been hol­i­day­ing with their girls and Jesse’s now teenage son Hank. The film opens with Jesse tak­ing Hank to the air­port for his flight home to his mother in Chicago. Hawke, in his T-shirt and wispy beard, is spot-on as the half-cool, halfdaggy dad who can’t be­lieve his son has grown up so fast. He wants to be there for him more than he has been and so clum­sily raises with Ce­line the pos­si­bil­ity of mov­ing to Chicago, a prospect that thrills her not in the least.

Ce­line, frus­trated in her work as an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, is con­sid­er­ing tak­ing a govern­ment job in Paris and she feels a lack of sup­port from Jesse as she weighs this im­por­tant de­ci­sion.

And so the trip-wire on which this two-

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