Sex, Love and Videotape

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Tag: Love

Pride and Prejudice

YEAR: 2005
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
KEY ACTORS: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen
CERTIFICATE: PG
IMDB SCORE: 7.8
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 86%

SEX SCORE: 5/5
✔️ I love this film and definitely think it’s rewatchable!
✔️ I also definitely want to fuck the cast. Keira Knightley is beautiful as always and Matthew Macfadyen is seriously fuckable in this movie!
✔️ I’m going to give it a mark for sex positivity. Sex isn’t mentioned explicitly but enthusiastic consent for marriage and making good relationship decisions is certainly a big topic, as is disrespectful treatment of women, so I’m happy to say it’s sex positive!
✔️ And it passes the Bechdel Test! I mean, the named women talk about balls and ribbons and dancing, rather than directly talking about men, but it’s still a pass!
✔️ And, drum roll, I’m going to give it a mark for inspiring fantasies as Darcy is a fantasy man for so many people, including me. 5/5!!

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: Amazon Prime (rent £2.49, buy £7.99), YouTube (from £2.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

The Pride and Prejudice showing Knightley and Macfadyen

I have a very strong memory of watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with my mother. We were boarding in the granny annex of a friend of the family as we were in the process of moving house and I remember that the apartment didn’t have a separate living space so we had to watch TV sat on my mother’s bed. Can you imagine the decadence of being allowed to stay up longer than your little sisters to watch a programme such as Pride and Prejudice and to watch it while snuggled up in bed with your mother? It was literally heaven! I suspect that we were watching a re-run when I was 12 in 1997, rather than the original showing in 1995 when I was 10, but this was still my first exposure to Jane Austen, to Pride and Prejudice, and to Mr Darcy. I never looked back…

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing the Bennett family in a carriage

In case you need a summary, Pride and Prejudice is a story about marriage and status. Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley, two highly eligible bachelors, cause a stir in the village where the Bennet family lives, simply by moving there and being single. Mr Bingley soon falls for Jane, the oldest and most beautiful Bennet, but no one likes the arrogant and brooding Mr Darcy, especially not after he insults Elizabeth. After spending more time together, Mr Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth but manages to propose in such a hamfisted fashion that she is even more insulted and refuses. This isn’t the end of the story, however, and events soon occur that enlighten Elizabeth as to Darcy’s true personality. Rather than the arrogant wanker she suspected, he proves to be a good and gentle man and, of course, they end up getting married.

And after such an indulgent introduction, I fell head over heels for the story and the drama and the style of Pride and Prejudice, going straight out to read the book and devouring as much Jane Austen as I could, but I never really got the whole Darcy thing. Or rather, I was consciously caught up in the fuss that surrounded the character ever since Colin Firth stepped out of that lake with his wet shirt and brooding look, but I always felt that I was crushing on Darcy because that’s what everyone did rather than because he particularly set me aflame.

That was until I saw the 2005 movie version. Oh. My. Gosh! Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy changed absolutely everything and I honestly don’t think I couldn’t love him more!

As a rule, I tend to enjoy most retellings of this story, even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! And I while like the chemistry of the Firth-Ehle pairing in the BBC version, the difference here is that I love the Knightley-Macfadyen combination. The Pride and Prejudice story has been told so many times in so many ways that you wouldn’t think that it would be possible to create such a radically new perspective, but this feels all new to me.

The movie is often unfavourably compared to the 1995 BBC version but I much prefer it. For me, it has everything that a British period drama needs to have – elegant and overcrowded dances and balls in great halls, walks in libraries, enviable dresses, plus an odd chicken walking around here and there – but I love it because I believe it. I believe that Mrs Bennet spends every moment plotting the love lives of her daughters. I believe that Bingley is wholly in love with Jane, but I also believe that he is stupid enough to persuaded that Jane’s love isn’t real when his friend warns him off. He is so sweet and guileless and trusting that he would just nod along with his friend’s recommendation and break his own heart rather than believe his feelings.

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing Elizabeth at a ball

More importantly, I love this film because I believe in Darcy. I believe that he is completely overwhelmed with his feelings for Elizabeth and just doesn’t know how to handle them, which, when combined with an obvious social awkwardness, creates that famous diffidence and aloofness that makes him appear so proud.

And I love them as a couple because I am cheering them on from the very first second that they lay eyes on each other. They are clearly in love with each other from that very, very first second! It’s why they keep glancing at each other; it’s why Darcy’s remarks about how ‘tolerable’ Elizabeth is sting so much, and it’s why he stumbles over his words and phrases when talking to and about her. He wants her. He wants her so much that he can’t think straight and it is just intoxicating! He is so obviously trying to impress her, trying to make up for accidentally insulting her but keeps failing and just making it worse. As the New York Times describes, ‘the disparity between his diffidence and her forthrightness makes the lovers’ failure to connect more than a delaying tactic to keep the story churning forward; it’s a touching tale of misread signals.’

Because Elizabeth is no better – I had never really associated the Pride of the title with her, but in this version it is definitely her wounded pride that causes her to keep toying with Darcy and teasing him, never letting him get the better of her again. But in this version of the character, I really, truly believe that he is worthy of Elizabeth’s love and I completely understand why she falls for him. In other versions, I didn’t really get it. Was it because he had a big house? Because he saved her family’s reputation? All good reasons but not exactly ones to inspire such romantic longing.

But I do long for them to get together. Macfadyen’s secret finger flex after he holds Knightley’s hand makes me gasp like I imagine everyone did when Firth started wandering around in wet shirts, but this is just the beginning. By the end, when Mr Bennet tearfully exclaims that Elizbeth really does love him, I’m sobbing along with him as I can’t contain my happiness.

Gif from Pride and Prejudice showing Darcy flexing his hand after touching Elizabeth’s hand

So what is so different about Macfadyen’s Darcy and this film to cause such a huge change in my emotional reaction?

Well, I think it comes down to the fact that I had previously really struggled with the idea of Mr Darcy as a dream romantic icon, and this was made worse because I see in Firth’s portrayal everything that I don’t like about the Darcy character.

In my opinion, Firth’s Darcy is arrogant; he is brusque and offhand and thinks he is better than everyone else. He snubs Elizabeth because he genuinely thinks that he is above that kind of company and hasn’t bothered to get to know her at all. Firth’s Darcy is as surprised as anyone to find himself in love with Elizabeth and his proposal feels selfish somehow, as if he hasn’t thought of her opinion at all and just presumes she’ll accept as he doesn’t think she can get any better. Firth’s Darcy is every one of those horrendous but beautiful fuckboys who don’t treat women nicely because they know they don’t have to. Women swoon at his feet regardless of how he behaves. Until Elizabeth, of course. Then he has to learn to be a better person because that is what Elizabeth demands it of him.

In contrast, Macfadyen’s Darcy feels like a good person all along, just one who doesn’t know how to show his emotions: ‘Matthew Macfadyen finds a human dimension in the taciturn landowner Fitzwilliam Darcy that was missing in earlier, more conventionally heroic portrayals. Mr. Firth might have been far more dashing, but Mr. Macfadyen’s portrayal of the character as a shy, awkward suitor whose seeming arrogance camouflages insecurity and deep sensitivity is more realistic.

Interestingly, I prefer Firth’s second version of Darcy – Mark Darcy in 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary – although he is still no Macfadyen! That Darcy seems like a middle ground between the arrogant and the socially awkward, and I am fascinated by the trend, because there is a definite trend in how Darcy is presented and received. Honestly, delving into the history of Darcy and his place in popular culture has proved to be my favourite piece of research for this blog so far!

Darcy is undoubtedly an archetypal romantic hero. He is supposed to be exactly what women want and a poll in the early 2000s revealed that ‘1,900 women across the generations voted for Mr Darcy as the man they would most like to go on a date with.’ And that is what fascinates me – ‘across the generations.’ Why does Darcy appeal to everyone? And is every generation of women attracted to the same Darcy?

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing Darcy and Elizabeth dancing

I read an absolutely incredible article about the history of Mr Darcy that I would strongly recommend that you read as I am about to essentially paraphrase and quote from it, but it proposes that Austen originally wrote Darcy at a time when masculinity and the role of a gentleman was in flux; a circumstance not that dissimilar to the current social upheaval prompted by #MeToo, discussions of toxic masculinity, and the next generation of feminists. Could this be why I find the most recent versions of Darcy more attractive and more true to my reading of the novel?

Austen wrote Darcy as a character who looked forward – he was a Victorian man with Victorian masculine sensibilities at a time when more Georgian gentility still dominated society. He has a ‘serious moral tone and a strong sense of purpose,’ which contrasted with Bingley’s ‘eighteenth-century gentleman’s refinement and easy, sociable manners.’ Darcy is straightforward, ‘paying more attention to “the promptings of his inner self” than to the “dictates of social expectations.”’

It could be argued that Darcy was a very early example of the struggles of toxic masculinity. He works so hard to maintain his position as a man and a gentleman at a time when it is not clear how best to be both, and this conflict causes him to be rude to, well, everyone. His status as a gentleman is ‘complicated by the lack of ease required to develop the manners and conduct that will recommend him to others.’ In the traditional sense of the word, he is a gentleman by birth but not in action and, until Elizabeth, this had never been tested. Elizabeth even directly attacks his identity as a gentleman when refusing his proposal – ‘You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.’ No wonder it shakes him to his core!

But such is Austen’s genius that she is able to demonstrate both the struggles of this change in requirement of a gentleman and the reasons why such a change is necessary. Not only is Mr Bingley an adorably laughable character, exemplifying the superficial nature of gentlemanly behaviour, but Austen also wrote Mr Wickham as ‘Darcy’s foil’ – a reminder to both Elizabeth and those reading the book that ‘pleasant, easy manners alone are not an adequate measure of masculinity.’ Wickham may be the perfect gentleman but he is a cruel and manipulative man. Instead, Austen presents Darcy as a modern man and a more attractive option. He is not frivolous; he is measured and moral and good.

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing Darcy looking brooding

But this version of Darcy, the straightforward masculine man who struggles with knowing how he should present himself in a changing world, got lost for a long time in modern representations of him.

It is Lawrence Olivier in 1940 who is credited for being one of the earliest diffident and arrogant versions of Darcy, and his character progressed from there until Darcy had become a more brutal romantic hero and was almost an example of the weakness and inconsistency of women. We yearn for ‘dark, smouldering, moody, charismatic, arrogant Darcy types, whom we hate at first sight and then later find ourselves falling in love with’ only to feign surprise when they ‘turn out to be rigid, dominating and controlling.’ Fuckboys; our love for Darcy is what leads us to fall for fuckboys. And to fall for Heathcliff and Edward Cullen and James Bond and Mr Big and all manner of other emotionally unavailable men who treat women like crap. This Darcy may be a fantasy for women, but perhaps not one that we should want so much!

In a somewhat scathing attack written in 2004, the year before this movie came out, Cherry Potter suggested that ‘when society was deeply patriarchal, men like Darcy really were severe, remote and all-powerful’ and women had no choice but to marry them because they needed protection. But now, she worries about what our obsession with Darcy says about women and what message it sends to men: ‘As modern women with our wealth of relationship experience and all the benefits brought about by feminism, we should know better.

But but but but…that’s not the Darcy that Austen wrote and that’s not the Darcy in this fabulous 2005 movie!

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing Darcy walking in the fog

Darcy is strong and sexy and powerful but he is also respectful and honourable. Compare how he reacts to Elizabeth’s refusal of his proposal with Mr Collins’s response. Darcy defends himself against her erroneous views about him but then leaves her in peace. He only approaches the subject again when he has a glimmer of hope that her opinions might have changed, and even then promises to never speak of it if his hope is mistaken. He believes her no! I cannot tell you how important and admirable that is. Mr Collins, on the other hand, assumes that Elizabeth is playing a game to tease him, as women are so tricksy, and doesn’t believe her, asking again more ardently and forcefully and not letting go.

Stealing the words of the Happy Feminist, our fantasies for Mr Darcy have ‘nothing to do with deep down wanting a patriarchal, dominating or controlling man.‘ Instead, Darcy represents that guy we admire, the one we never thought we could get, but who it turns out thinks as highly of us as we do of him. He’s the unrequited love who really does love us back, the extraordinary writer who loves what we write, the brilliant colleague who asks our advice; he’s the intoxication and joy that comes with realising someone you look up to thinks of you as an equal: ‘The fantasy is to win the utter respect, admiration and passion of a man of great intelligence and great character, especially a man who is not easily won.’ Oh, be still my beating heart…!

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing Elizabeth standing surrounded by laundry

And this leads on to another aspect of Joe Wright’s film that I think is absolutely perfect. Keira Knightley is beautiful, there is no doubt about that, but Elizabeth Bennet shouldn’t be. She was intelligent and witty and attractive because of all of these non-physical features but Knightley’s beauty shifts the balance: ‘Her radiance so suffuses the film that it’s foolish to imagine Elizabeth would be anyone’s second choice.’ But I loved this because it allows Elizabeth and Darcy to be equals again. Darcy’s good looks are never described in the novel and he is a figure of attraction because of his wealth and status. Making Darcy gorgeous while Elizabeth remains plain is just mean. (And misogynistic!)

Instead, they are equals, each bringing different strengths to their partnership – Darcy has higher social status and greater wealth, but Elizabeth is definitely emotionally superior and arguably more intelligent too. It is ‘a marriage of equals.’ And, of course, that is the secret. The mutual admiration between Darcy and Elizabeth is what I have always longed for in a partner, and is a part of my own relationship that never stops bringing me joy.

An image from Pride and Prejudice showing Darcy and Elizabeth kissing

And that is why I love this movie and why I cry with happiness that Elizbeth and Darcy are able to finally understand each other and see each other and love each other. This version of Pride and Prejudice is a remainder that ‘the best romances are between strong people who appreciate each other’s strength.’ The best romances are between people who admire each other and value each other and understand each other.

And that is why Darcy is still my ultimate romantic hero. Not the brutal, distant and brooding icon, but the real man. He is far from perfect and he would be a hard won prize but, damn, he would be worth it…

Next week: Showgirls

This week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt is ‘Ceremony’ so, as this movie is all about weddings and marriages, I thought I’d link it up! Do click through to read more erotica and sex writing on the theme of ceremony…

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Copyright
All stills and photos are sourced from MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial, and are the courtesy of their respective production studios and/or distribution companies. Images are intended for educational or editorial use only. Gifs from Tenor.com

The Before trilogy

YEAR: Sunrise 1995, Sunset 2004, Midnight 2013
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
KEY ACTORS: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
CERTIFICATE: 15
IMDB SCORE: Sunrise 8.1, Sunset 8.0, Midnight 7.9
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: Sunrise 100%, Sunset 95%, Midnight 97%

SEX SCORE: 4.5/5
✔️ Definitely rewatchable – and I’d recommend watching the full trilogy in one sitting if you can.
✔️ The cast are definitely fuckable. Julie Delpy is all sorts of fantastic and although there is something, well, weaselly about Ethan Hawke, the chemistry between them is so hot that I still want him despite his somewhat wiry facial hair!
✔️ And these movies did inspire lots of fantasies – meeting a hot stranger on a train, fucking in a park, missing a plane home because I needed to fuck someone right there and then…
✔️ On balance, I think these movies are sex positive. This is mainly as there isn’t much sex negativity so it gets a mark by default!
❓ Only Before Midnight passes…but it’s the only one with more than two named characters after all. The films are so focused on those two characters that this test feels, well, irrelevant.

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: Amazon Prime (rent £3.49, buy £7.99 but not Sunset!?), YouTube (from £3.99, Midnight from £2.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

The three posters side by side - Sunrise showing them lying under a dawn sky, Sunset on a boat under a bridge and Midnight walking by a quay

Oh, what am I thinking attempting to write about the entire Before… trilogy in one post?! This may be my most ambitious (and is definitely my longest) post yet!

But having just watched all three films over two nights, I cannot imagine writing about them in any other way. Although the first, Before Sunrise, is a unique and self-contained film, the others become increasingly dependent on the previous ‘episodes’ as the series progresses and themes tend to run through them all so talking about them separately would be either repetitive or disruptive. So here goes…

The three films of the Before… trilogy follow the lives of Jesse (Hawke) and Céline (Delpy) essentially in real time. Before Sunrise, in 1995, is about their meeting on a train approaching Vienna. They are both in their early twenties and single, although newly so in Jesse’s case. He persuades Céline to get off the train in Vienna with him and they fall in love over one night, walking through the city at night and eventually fucking in a park. In a ridiculously tenuous plan that could only be made by people so young and naive, they agree to meet back on that platform in 6 months but don’t share any contact details – this was before the internet or smart phones and, anyway, it was more romantic that way.

Jesse and Céline sit opposite each other, pretending to talk on phones made of their fingers

Nine years then pass, both for the characters and for the viewers, as the next film was released in 2004. In Before Sunset, Jesse is now an author on a book tour to promote his supposedly fictional novel about a young man who meets a beautiful woman on a train and spends a night walking around Vienna, falling in love with her. Céline, obviously, attends the reading and they reunite, walking through Paris from the bookstore back to Céline’s flat. It turns out that Jesse did fly back to Vienna all those years ago but Céline could not as her grandmother had just died and so they had not seen each other again until now. Both have materially moved on – Jesse is married with a son and Céline is in a long distance relationship – but it becomes clear that they never stopped loving each other; never stopped wondering and wishing and looking. So, of course, Jesse misses his flight home to be with her.

Jesse and Céline sit in the back of a car, talking to each other

Finally, after another nine years in 2013, the final instalment was released – Before Midnight. Jesse and Céline are married with young twin girls, who are likely around eight, and on holiday in Greece. Sadly, the romantic ideal of the early films has faded and this film is about an epic argument. Jesse is worried about his son living with his estranged wife in Chicago, Céline feels trapped in a life as a wife and mother that she doesn’t want, and a romantic night in a hotel turns into a row that culminates with Céline claiming she doesn’t love Jesse anymore and storming out. Although there is the suggestion of reconciliation, the film ending with them sitting together on a quay, there is no doubt that their relationship is on rocky ground.

Jesse and Céline are sitting, having dinner. Jesse is looking at her as she makes an exclamation

Fuck. What a journey!

I both love and hate these films in equal measure. They feel too personal, too prescient, and so I have complicated feelings about how they fit into my life. The fact that I even wonder how they fit me at all says a lot about the quality of these films. Obviously, my life is nothing like that depicted on screen but the depth of emotion and realism in their interactions felt and still feels so familiar, even before I fell in love myself, that I cannot help but have a visceral reaction to the stories, more than I ever have with other movies.

I know the first film, Before Sunrise, the best and watched it often during my twenties, falling in love with both Jesse and Céline a bit more each time. They are so idealistic, so hopefully and so obviously young in their earnest discussions on philosophy and life. Similar to my declaration that the men in Y Tu Mamá También are such teenage boys, both Jesse and Céline are such early twenties students! But so was I – I recognised myself in their musings and in their youthful optimism. And I cannot tell you how much I wanted to travel and meet someone exciting and have that kind of romantic and erotic adventure. It seemed so possible and so real, and it was intoxicating.

That sense of reality is what is so perfect about Richard Linklater’s films, which, combined with his infinitely patient use of time, turns his movies into masterpieces. The films and the plots are deceptively simple, with lots of tracking shots as they walk and talk and lots of scenery and architecture, but it means that you as the viewer are firmly rooted beside them. I know I felt connected to them; to the possibility of their future that was teased by the knowledge of sequels!

And I’ve only ever seen the other films in marathon viewings, first near Valentines in 2015 and now this weekend, so I have only ever been completely immersed in the rest of their story. As Before Sunset had been out for over a decade by the time I saw it, I was roughly the same age as Jesse and Céline when I did see it. I had also just met the man who would turn out to be the love of my life and, in an ultimately futile attempt to protect myself, I was desperately trying to persuade myself that I couldn’t have fallen in love after so few dates. So I really felt every look that sizzled between them; every hopeful glance, every wistful remembrance, every time Jesse looked at Céline as if the heat of his eyes alone could melt her clothes away, and it made me hope that I wasn’t being reckless to be hovering so close to my own big love story.

Jesse and Céline are walking through Paris and he is looking at her as they walk

The anticipation in Before Sunset is just so fucking hot! Unlike the other two, it’s almost in real time. Jesse only has an hour or so before his flight back to his miserable life in America with a wife he doesn’t love and the film is just as short, lasting only 80 minutes. You can feel their love growing with every passing minute but, more, you can feel their desire. My husband, EA, told me that Céline putting her arms around Jesse’s neck and asking ‘Are you trying to say you want to kiss me?’ in Before Sunrise was the sexiest thing ever put on film, but I disagree – it’s the look on Jesse’s face as he watches Céline sing and dance at the end of Before Sunset. And when I watched it, I knew that I was standing at a similar junction in my own love life and I wanted to stop pretending, just as they had.

Which is why I found Before Midnight so upsetting and frustrating when I first saw it, writing at the time in my sex blog about my fury at the destruction of this romantic dream being thrust into my face. Why can’t they live happily ever after? Why can’t I remain deluded and just believe in ever lasting love? Why did I have to be reminded of real life and real heartbreak and why did it have to be this amazing, beautiful story that smashed my delusion? Watching it first in that marathon sitting, barely 30 minutes had passed since the end of Before Sunset when I had accepted my own romantic dreams might come true and I was genuinely devastated that this might be my future too.

But, of course, that is why this trilogy is so fucking fantastic. Time passes, real time, and everything changes. It is deluded to think it won’t, no matter how much we might wish otherwise. Watching it now, for the second time and with knowledge of what is to come, I can see beauty in this part too. There is comfort and familiarity in their conversations before the argument, as I would hope in long term relationships. And they could always talk easily with each other but their discussions of their now shared nine year history were just as heartwarming as their exploratory conversations in the earlier movies.

Jesse and Céline are in a car with their daughters asleep in the background

But that’s not to say that I didn’t find it just as devastating. I really, really need Richard Linklater to write a fourth part for 2022 – Before Noon, perhaps? I really need to see Jesse and Céline in another nine years, in their fifties, looking back at that destructive argument and that difficult time from a place of recovery. I almost don’t care if they’re still together. I just need to see that they’ve found a peace and I need to know that their complaints have been resolved.

Because watching Before Midnight now, married with a young baby, it was the specifics of their argument that really got to me, not just that they were capable of such an argument. There was so much regret – Jesse regrets his failed marriage and subsequent impossible relationship with his ex-wife, which has been made more difficult because of the overlap with his reconciliation with Céline and is now affecting his access to his son. Meanwhile, Céline regrets the speed at while she fell pregnant and the loss of her creativity and potential in her new role as a wife and mother. None of these apply to me; I don’t have these regrets, but neither did they when they first got together and it frightened me that such core features of their relationship could become sources of regret.

Jesse is standing in a doorway of a hotel room, looking aghast

‘I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing!’ Jesse says to Céline at one point, and I flinched. That was the moment that I loved the most and yet here it was being used against her. And the fact that such deep seated and all consuming resentments could be revealed in an argument that started because of something as trivial as not passing the phone when Hank, Jesse’s son, called suggested that they had been bubbling for a while, and I hated that. Actually, no need for the past tense – I hate that.

Because it is just so real that it hurts. How many marriages and relationships fail because of an accumulation of small dissatisfactions? How easy is it to let small issues fester and grow until they poison the whole? As a film, it’s brilliant. As an example for life, which I had clung to in the first two films, it was heartbreaking.

What made the trilogy more complete and more extraordinary is that the inevitability of their collapse is foreshadowed in the early films. There are so many callbacks that I cannot imagine watching the films individually as there is so much richness that might be missed.

For example, the trilogy starts with a German couple arguing. There are no subtitles so the reason for the argument is not known, but the bickering tone and back-and-forth suggests a well worn conflict. It is this argument that encourages Céline to change seat and sit near Jesse; it is literally what brings them together. They mock the couple, all but promising that they will never be like that and would instead love more deeply with familiarity:

‘When you talked earlier about after a few years how a couple would begin to hate each other by anticipating their reactions or getting tired of their mannerisms – I think it would be the opposite for me. I think I can really fall in love when I know everything about someone – the way he’s going to part his hair, which shirt he’s going to wear that day, knowing the exact story he’d tell in a given situation. I’m sure that’s when I know I’m really in love.’

Of course, it doesn’t end up that way.

Another big call back that really resonated with me now involved Céline’s difficulty balancing her creativity, career and motherhood. By Before Midnight, she is uncertain about her career direction, no longer writing songs or expressing her creativity, and the bitterness in her statement that she became pregnant ‘the first time they had sex without a condom’ suggests that becoming a mother so soon had not been her plan.

Her dissatisfaction at her current situation made me incredibly sad, mainly as it blandly shows that I am right to fear a certain loss of self now that I am a mother myself. I don’t have as much space to be creative now, my household responsibilities have magnified to absorb almost all of my time; I fear becoming as regretful and bitter as Céline. I’m hopeful that I won’t – EA and I talk a lot about exactly this, as well as other areas of concern that have developed for us since becoming parents, and I do believe that being realistically forewarned means that I am forearmed, but the fears do remain.

My sadness was exacerbated as Céline’s bitterness represents a loss of innocence that broke my heart almost more than the possible collapse of her marriage. Because young Céline, Before Sunrise Céline, knew the risks to her sense of self and wanted it anyway. She wanted to be loved that deeply and entirely, and yet it didn’t make her happy:

‘I always feel this pressure of being a strong and independent icon of womanhood, and without making it look my whole life is revolving around some guy. But loving someone, and being loved means so much to me. We always make fun of it and stuff. But isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?’

It was also creativity that brought them back together – Jesse wrote his novel in the hope that she’d read it and track him down, Céline wrote a song that ensured he fell in love with her – so is it a surprise that they’re struggling if her creativity is squashed? And I have to once again complain about the patriarchy (maybe I need to make this a tag?!) as, of course, Jesse’s creativity isn’t affected. In fact, Céline has given up a lot to allow Jesse to write and be creative. She has sacrificed; he has flourished. Of course.

For me, the power of this trilogy comes from how real it is – in the way the characters speak, the emotions that they reveal, and the progression in their relationship over 18 years. Even how they’ve aged! Each film was made without a planned follow-up so the future wasn’t known when it was released. Did they meet again in Vienna and fulfil that youthful romantic dream? Did they get together after Jesse missed his flight and was the sex as good as the anticipation promised? And can they fix the rift that has now forced itself between them?

But we can’t know until the next film is released, just as we can’t know our own futures until they happen. And as someone who usually dives into movies to escape reality, I love and hate these films in equal measure for reminding me, so beautifully, that sometimes reality is a dream come true – it’s a song that sparks a lost love, a train journey with unexpected consequences – but sometimes, maybe all the time eventually, reality fucking sucks.

So please, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy – please write another film. I really need to know what happens next!

Next week: Death Proof

Copyright
All stills and photos are sourced from MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial, and are the courtesy of their respective production studios and/or distribution companies. Images are intended for educational or editorial use only.