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Intimate conversation

 Posted: 9:10 AM June 20, 2013

"Before Midnight" is the third film in a sublime trilogy. And it is perhaps the most honest and authentic.

The first of the three was "Before Sunrise" (1994); the actors and director then returned with "Before Sunset" (2004). And in "Midnight," we step into the dynamic stream of the lives of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) once again, now middle-aged, still together (they have two young twin daughters), and still able to engage in penetrating conversation. However, their dialogue has changed as have they. Life has happened, baggage has been packed and unpacked, differences that were once mere bumps, barely noticeable, can suddenly seem irreconcilable. Almost Pyrrhic.

The film, which stands comfortably alone, opens with Jesse saying goodbye to his 13-year-old son, Henry, at the airport. They have spent five weeks together in an idyllic setting in Greece's southern Peloponnese. Henry must return to his mother in Chicago and Jesse is loathed to say goodbye, burdened by guilt and the nagging reality that he cannot play a larger role in Hank's life.

Before Midnight

108 min

Rated R

Man of Steel

148 min

Rated PG-13

Waiting outside at the curb is Celine, their two daughters asleep in the backseat of their car. And so begins what will be a series of conversations about their lives, their relationship, all so stunningly natural, so well crafted that there are moments in the film when it can feel almost uncomfortably voyeuristic.

But then, "Before Midnight," like its predecessors, is a film predicated on conversation: smart, prickly, insightful, loving, hurtful conversation. Language is the impetus, interaction the scaffolding. And in "Midnight" the couple's history, all that has occurred, all the choices made and not made, the compromises, the regrets, however minor, exist just beneath a patina of love and civility. To bear witness to their moments of accord and discord is astonishing and artful and amazing filmmaking — every word written collaboratively by director Richard Linklater, Delpy and Hawke.

And while "Sunrise" and "Sunset" are viewed through the prism of romance and intense physical attraction, "Midnight" is testimony to the resilience required to remain married, to be in a relationship that for all its promise can never be perfect, but can, in so many ways, endure, because that is what two people, who still can find reasons to love one another no matter the grievances, so choose (Celine, says to Jesse, her words edged with resentment, "Women explore for eternity in the vast garden of sacrifice").

It is an act of will and a commitment to love another person, not for a year or five, but for a lifetime. And it is that truth that is so superbly explored in this lovely, moving and very human film.

There has always been a very subtle and nuanced movie embedded in the mythology of Superman. But it's not a movie that a studio would dare make for those tween-teen boys who are completely enamored of this iconic character.

For this reboot, I would suggest a movie that focuses entirely on the origin of Superman. Not beginning, necessarily, with his birth on Krypton (which is how "Man of Steel" opens), nor the launching of the tiny craft that brings the infant, Kal-El, to Earth; rather it's the years that follow that offer compelling possibilities.

The essence of Clark's tween and teen years follow a typical narrative arc regarding his search for identity. Only in the case of Clark, he must come to terms not only with who he is as a boy and young man, but who he is as an alien possessed of superhuman powers.

"Man of Steel" explores this landscape briefly, using flashbacks, showing Clark at ages 9 and 13 and finally at 33 (Henry Cavill). And there are poignant moments when he is counseled by his father (Kevin Costner) to never reveal his true abilities, for he is aware that Earth's inhabitants may not be ready to have revealed not only the presence of an alien on Earth, but the fact that we are not alone in the universe.

Those two truths represent more of a threat to Clark than any over-the-top antagonist such as the rogue General Zod (Michael Shannon), from Krypton, who has come to Earth to destroy not only Clark, but all its inhabitants.

— Chris Honoré


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