I come from a generation that had been fed fairy tales. We all thought that true love was as easy as making a deal with the sea witch and trading your voice for a pair of legs, kissing the beast to get the prince, and maybe even riding a magic carpet – shining, shimmering, fucking splendid. Then we grew up and realized that nope, it doesn’t quite work that way. You have to date, kiss a multitude of beasts and frogs and find out that they were no more than beasts and frogs.
Last night, I saw Before Midnight, the last installment of the Before series. Now, the Before series follows the story of Jesse and Celine. The first one, Before Sunrise, explored magic. How two people can meet by chance, and have such a great connection. It wasn’t quite like a fairy tale, Jesse didn’t ride a white horse and save Celine from a dragon. (Actually, I think she’s more than capable of taking care of herself, and Jesse, though he has a flair for grand romantic gestures, isn’t quite the type.) The story isn’t fairy tale-ish, but it is something we all wish for at some point: Meeting your soulmate – or at least, somebody who looks like him or her – on the train.
The second one, Before Sunset, made us question this entire soulmate business. (Spoiler alert. But then again, why are you reading this if you haven’t seen any of the films?) If they had been so meant for each other, then how come they didn’t live happily ever after? They’re the opposite of happily ever after, in fact, they’re miserable. Over the course of film though, we see that they’ve grown older, wiser, and aren’t quite so starry eyed anymore. In the end though, we’re about 99% sure that they’re going to end up together. I mean, after that song, we were all ready to marry Julie Delpy.
Then comes the third and last installment, Before Midnight. It’s a love story we so rarely see – between two middle aged people… with issues. This is not a rom-com. There is no slapstick humor or comedy of errors. Just two people starring in their own love story. It isn’t the pretty part of the story either, no cutesy-fied scenes and definitely no chasing each other on the beach. Just an honest portrayal of a middle-age couple. Watching the film felt like voyeurism of some sort, like we’re watching private moments. They’re not strangers to us, and we’ve heard this story before, but as I walked out of the cinema after having watched the film, I realized that this must be the most realistic love story I’ve seen outside of real life. No castles, no shining white horses, no singing dwarves. Just the kind of love that takes hard work to keep going. The kind with teeth grinding compromise and plain old vicious arguing.
Is it a happy ending? Depends on your general outlook on these things, really. It’s hardly the end, rather, it’s a new beginning.