Sunday night Kim and our mom and I went to see Before Midnight, the third in a trilogy of films starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy that explore the subtleties of romance, love and partnership through extended dialogue over short time frames (usually about 12 hours). I was strangely anxious before entering the theatre.
Having loved the first two films, I was concerned about the possibility of disappointment, as often happens with sequels. But more accurately I was worried that they would succeed in accomplishing what I haven’t ever really seen accomplished before – a realistic portrayal of what love looks like after life (children, money, betrayal, illness) take its toll. In other words, what really comes after “happily ever after”. And frankly, I wasn’t sure I was ready to see the full truth of that on the big screen.
I was right to be worried. The film did hit it the mark, at least for me. In fact, there were parts of the script that were such an accurate depiction of conversations my husband and I have had that I could have sworn they had bugged my home and written the script from my life.
I’m still processing the film and my head is reeling with thoughts about love and partnership and fidelity, but what I most appreciated about this film was that it subtly asks us to put down our ideas about fairy tale love, and pick up a new idea of love – one that accepts darkness with the light, one that recognizes that real love is unconditional love – it is not dependent on your partner being perfect or changing to meet all your desires and needs. Most of all, love is often sitting right there in front of us at the very moment that we think we’ve lost it.
For me the film felt hopeful, because the film ends ambiguously (as do the other two) and so I was able to project on the film my own current state of thinking with regards to long-term commitment and relationships. Fortunately for me, having worked through several loads of CRAP with my husband over the past few years, and having spent a huge amount of time in what I’ll call “Doubting Land,” I’ve finally found myself back in a place of peace and surrender and commitment. So for me, it felt good to see what we went through realistically depicted on the big screen, knowing that, at least for now, we’ve made it through to the other side.
On the other hand, this movie could be pretty unpleasant for a lot of people. With its accurate depiction of modern relationships and it's ambiguous ending it could easily be perceived as a cautionary tale against having children or trying to make long-term monogamy work. As one friend put it so nicely “I have enough angst about commitment and having children. I don’t need to fan that fire.”
My hope though, is that for any of you who are currently IN THE MUCK of figuring out if your relationship is worth saving, that this film might help raise the kinds of questions and facilitate the kind of dialogue that are needed to find your way out to the other side.