If the previous generation's narrative was defined by the ascendence of women, ours is certainly about the decline of men. Before Midnight, the third pillar in this magnificent Gen X love story, encapsulates this perfectly.
Ethan Hawke as insecure, romantic, doubting, sensitive and tortured soul codifies the new man. He struggles to gain control of his relationships. He grasps at their failures. He broods and replaces his earlier optimism with irony. He was a man with a dream who took a chance, only to end up blasé about his success; longing instead for what he's lost with the choices he's made - even though most of us would kill to have what he has; a successful career, recognition, a beautiful wife who he courted mythically and two angelic children. He also lives in Europe and this whole film takes place on an idyllic summer holiday in Greece. Alpha man, or men of old, would sit back and gloat. They would be smug and wear those plastic smiles one sees on Mad Men.
But like the great 19th century Russians, who mostly wrote about aristocratic problems, the human condition is problematic, even if one is well to do. And we empathize because suffering is suffering. And more so when that suffering is poetically rendered.
The movie on its own, for those unversed on the prior two, will be enlightening. Garrulous to the nth degree, it makes French films seem timid. In fact, the best way to describe this film and series is to say it's an American version of a French film. Or what I said when the first film debuted in 1994 : the first ever romantic comedy for intellectuals. This is a post modern chick flick, too.
It is an intelligent, honest and eccentric exercise in film making. Making you question the possibilities of modern love throughout.
When taken within the context of the two previous films, the effect is haunting. Is this what happens as we age? A sense of melancholy and ennui takes hold with the realization that you can get everything you ever wanted, and it still won't make you happy.
This is not a trilogy. The story is not over. Perhaps it ends better or it doesn't. The ambiguity makes you think.
The side conversations, about the nature of time and other metaphysical queries, are candy for the brain. They border on pretentiousness, though in the end, make for precious and refreshing cinema. Especially nowadays when the art and pleasure of conversation is nearly dead. Few people speak of anything other than their feelings and problems. Good to see, even if its fiction, human beings interacting on a more virtuous plane.
This film, this series, I have an inkling, will continue to astound and reveal itself as the years progress. The new film makes the set ever more perfect and I'm already looking forward nine years into the future for more. To see how it all turns out, for them, and myself.