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Before Midnight: Iconic Romance Saga Returns Nine Years Later
Do you believe in love at-first-sight? Or are you more of a pragmatist who prefers to keep your head cool and out of the clouds? Whichever side of the fence you choose to sit on, Richard Linklater's masterpiece will have you hooked.
It's been eighteen years since the world was introduced to two twenty-something, would-be lovers on a train in Vienna in Before Sunrise, and nine years since their chance encounter in Paris in Before Sunset. Now, another nine years on, comes Before Midnight.
As with all of the 'Before' movies, Before Midnight plays out over the course of one day. Jesse (Hawke), an American novelist and idealist, shares his life with Celine (Delpy); a headstrong, outspoken French activist who wonders whether her best days are behind her. The couple have been together for almost ten years and have chosen to spend their family holiday with their 7 year old twin daughters and Jesse's thirteen year old son, Hank (Davey-Fitzpatrick), in the picturesque Greece.
When it comes time to say goodbye to Hank at the airport – who is returning home to the States – Jesse realises he's missing out on his son's life and begins debating whether to move his whole family across the pond, in order to be closer to his boy. However, this doesn't sit well with Celine who is battling with her own decision of whether or not to accept a big job offer.
A series of long and seemingly complex conversations proceed and we watch the couple indulge in various extended debates and disputes – alone and with friends – covering everything from religion and politics, to sex and their own personal fears.
Before Midnight's truth and honest portrayal of a couple learning to grow old together is perhaps the film's strongest quality. Linklater has this amazing ability to connect with viewers; not just through a story and its message, but in forming the characters that carry it through. Hawke and Delpy are truly devoted to their roles and have wonderfully aged into their characters. Witty, clever, inquisitive and, most of all, believable, their on-screen chemistry makes watching them an absolute pleasure.
Linklater chooses yet another European backdrop which plays off wonderfully against the less optimistic views that the couple now shares; long scenes are filled with back-and-forth dialogues that are completely engrossing.
Wonderfully stimulating and disturbingly honest, Before Midnight delivers a natural extension of the Before series. The newest, and maybe closing, chapter is a wonderful and surprisingly sincere portrayal of life, love and what it takes to make it work.
They would try anything as if they had no fear of failure. They weren’t afraid of screwing up because the process and the act of creation were the important parts; if the product ended up sucking it was no big deal because they’d already be at work on the next piece. At least that’s the vibe that the documentary gives off. It also helps that the modern day, grown-up No Wavers seem every bit as cool as they did back then.
Ever since her mesmerising performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotilliard has become one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. Appearing in a number of hit films including Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Christopher Nolan's Inception and most recently The Dark Knight Rises, it has become very clear that everyone wants a piece of Mademoiselle Cotilliard's indisputable talents.
Rust and Bone – a low-key French melodrama – sees Marion return to her roots, with a story centred on two people coming together in times of great need.
The film opens with Ali (Schoenaerts); an unemployed and an irresponsible single father who arrives in Antibes in southern France to live with his semi-estranged sister, Anna (Masiero). He soon lands a job as a bouncer at a nearby club; apart from being able to ogle short skirts all night long, it also gives him the freedom to take up kickboxing during the day.
One night, during a club brawl, he meets Stephanie (Cotilliard); an orca trainer working at a nearby water park who gets herself caught up in the middle of the fight. Unable to drive, Ali extends his courtesy and drives her home. Initially, the two are shown to have no spark; they’re greeted by Stephanie’s jealous boyfriend and the two go their separate ways.
Their paths cross again when Stephanie suffers a freak accident at the water park and calls on Ali to her rescue one more time. Finding solace in each other's company, the twosome starts off as friends, before finding themselves on the road to something more.
Directed and co-written by Jacques Audiard – a filmmaker who gained acclaim for award-winning crime drama, A Prophet – Rust and Bone creates a successfully dark and unsympathetic melodrama of one woman's journey of both physical and emotional recovery. Unapologetic and sincere, the film is shot beautifully and is filled with dreamy, dim-lit water sequences, which play well against its generally grey and gritty backdrop.
Unfortunately, Audiard does falter and manages to alienate all sense of intrigue and sentiment. The plot becomes predictable and manages to lose its leading lady almost straight away. Pushing her story completely aside, the focus is abruptly shifted on the hardships of a single father. The relationship between the two protagonists is baffling; the connection is off and they’re relationship lacks any obvious passion. While nature of their relationship mirrors the mise en scene and the characters' miserable lives, the story yearns for a shot of furious romance to tie it all together.
The most disturbing factor of all is the soundtrack; Katy Perry's 'Fireworks' and B52's 'Love Shack', among other musical monstrosities, lend absolutely nothing to the sum of the film's parts.
Despite its ups and downs, Cotilliard delivers a sincere and often moving performance; never one to go over the top, the thirty seven year-old keeps her role grounded and real. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her male counterpart who, very early on, settles into a one-dimensional portrayal of what should have been a complex character; Ali ends up coming across as a man devoid of any charm or wit.
Raw, dark and very French, this is one of those films that you desperately want to love, but just plain don't.