The third instalment of the Before series is the most different out of the trilogy. For the first time, we see Celine and Jesse interacting with each other after actually having been together for a long time. It is not a story of them meeting one another or reconnecting after years, but of actually seeing the life that they have built together. They no longer talk as much about their individual experiences, but about their work, friends and their previous experiences together. They are more like a unit than individuals now. It also happens to be the only movie in the series where for the first time we do not feel like they have a magical connection that we all strive to achieve at some point in our lives as well. We see time doing its thing and eating away at most of the magical moments that created their connection and started their relationship. We see their dysfunctionality and their incompatibility.
As the couple are now in their forties, they have been together for 9 years and have twin daughters together. They seem more like an old, nagging married couple than anything else even though the two never actually married. The film shows us how they no longer live in their own cozy little bubble as they now have to shoulder their responsibility as parents but it also shows us how well they actually know one another now. For the first time, we see them love each other not based off of an idea they have about their partner or a wishful thinking about wanting to be with them, but out of actually knowing and living with them. For this reason, the third instalment – Before Midnight – also happens to be the most realistic and relatable and beautiful in its own way.
I believe Before Midnight shows us how incompatible the two are as individuals. Celine is more of a worrier and Jesse is more relaxed as a person. Celine is blunt and honest and Jesse is more passive aggressive. It shows us how individually small issues can get multiplied to transform into a huge fight that has the potential to end even the strongest of relationships. Celine has insecurities about her motherhood and Jesse feels like a shit father for living in a different continent as his first-born son, Henry. And somehow, in Before Midnight, we also see them bring out the worst in each other. We see them use their partners’ insecurities to win an argument. We see them being dysfunctional and we see them bickering and arguing so much that they cannot spend even one day together as a couple without fighting. We see how they have both lost bits of themselves that we loved in the first two parts of the franchise. They are not the same people that they fell in love with. Or rather maybe they are the same exact people even now but their less appealing qualities have magnified from before. Celine always had a bit of a neurotic side to her that was highlighted in both of the earlier movies. But in this one, at times she just comes off as irrational and nagging. As if she is looking for reasons to pick a fight with Jesse. And as far as Jesse is concerned, he was introduced to us as this super romantic guy who is willing to take big measures to make Celine feel special, but now we see him as just lazy about these things. At one point, we are even told about an alleged affair that Jesse had with someone, implying that he cheated on his wife.
But then there are scenes like this where we see much they actually enjoying talking to one another. That despite all the time they have not been together for, they still have stories for one another. And they still want to share bits of themselves with one another. They still really love each other’s company. They still are all ears for when they spend time with their partner. We see them making efforts to make it work. To keep their relationship interesting. We see them work as a team with their kids. Providing a happy life and a happy home for their daughters and a comfortable space for Henry, Jesse’s son from his first marriage. We see how Celine keeps coming back to him after their argument and we see how he makes her feel understood and loved even when she is at her worst. We see him go out to her when she storms out of the room during their argument. That even when all seems bad and it looks like it might be the end for the couple, neither one of them actually wants it. We see how honest Jesse is about Celine and his issues and he does not try to act like they are perfectly compatible or perfectly happy together. But that no matter how dysfunctional it may seem on the outside, that he still loves her in every way possible.
So finally, despite the fact that they are not compatible. Despite the fact that they are fighting all the time. Despite the fact that they bring out the worst in each other during their fights. Despite all this, they keep coming back to one another. We still feel hopeful about their relationship and I guess we have to wait another 2 years before finding out if there is going to be a fourth movie to the series. To see how they are with each other then. To find out about their fate. But for now, Before Midnight teaches us, that irrespective of what we go through, we have a very real choice of whether or not we still wish to see the best in the other person or we wish to give up. Because even though they are the most magical couple together in the first two films; the most enviable, time has done its thing and now they seem like just any old married couple. A lot of the charm has washed away. But, they willingly and consciously decide to put effort into making it work and they fundamentally wish to stay together. Despite their incompatibility as individuals. Before Midnight shows us that there is absolutely no substitute to effort. Not even magic can override it.