I should swiftly add that this film – the third in a trilogy which began with Before Sunrise and continued with Before Sunset, can be seen as relatively balanced in how it approaches both how men see women and how women perceive men within a relationship.
The essence of these films is a couple, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, meandering through some beautiful settings and essentially chatting. Not much more to it than that, and yet the conversations they have are so well drawn and fascinating, and, certainly in Before Midnight (its been a while since I watched the other two) they touch on universally recognised truisms about the minutiae of the human condition when it comes to long-term relationships – particularly where children play a part.
I have discussed this film with my sister and she explained the part where she cried with recognition of Julie Delpy’s brutally honest confession about how she felt she had fallen apart when her twins were born and her husband, a writer, essentially left her to it and went off on a book tour. She talks of him never being there, of both the emotional and physical difficulties of coping on your own with two babies.
For me, the kicker was her description of the day to day inequalities – of how the woman is generally the one who is expected – in the most unspoken way – to make the sacrifices, to lose herself in parenthood, to drop the career, to accept the fact that her pension will probably end up paying about 10p a year after X amount of years with little or no salary. She makes an impassioned speech to her partner, trying to make him understand that she resents the fact that, when the children were little, come bathtime or bedtime it was always her who had to be there no matter what, whilst he could skip out to a publisher’s event or drop the family time because writer’s inspiration had hit and he couldn’t afford to lose the moment. This, for me, perfectly sums up the female experience with such clarity and perception.
She walks a fine line between bowing out of the relationship – one in which she feels she has become a moveable object (he wants her to move from Paris to Chicago, leaving behind her dream job so that they can be closser to his son from a previous relationship), making a stand for feminism and equality, and recognising the fact that the love and bond between herself and her partner are true and that he is no different from a million other men and fathers except that he’s her lover and life partner. All her niggles can’t cancel out the fact that they were right together as a couple and, I guess that relationships are inevitably about compromise and acceptance.
A very thought provoking movie.