Fans of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset will finally find out whether Jesse missed his plane in the long-awaited sequel, Before Midnight. While it will be interesting to see the progression of the relationship between Jesse and Celine, I am most curious about the character development of the latter. Within the first two films, we saw Celine first as an idealistic twenty-something, ready to believe that in love at first sight, and then as a more experienced and cynical thirty-something, holding relationships at a distance. What happens next remains to be seen, but my excitement for Before Midnight has helped me reflect on why I admire Celine so much as a character.
As a twenty-something, I find myself looking to her character in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset for life advice, especially in concern to navigating relationships. Here are the top three lessons I learned from Celine.
1. Her life does not revolve around the past.
While Celine does regret that their planned six-month-rendezvous did not work out, she didn't stop her life. She kept going, furthering her education and engaging in human rights-based work, creating a satisfying life. When Celine and Jesse catch up in a Parisian cafe, she discusses her focus on the everyday moments of life and how it's important to live presently. She may not always be content with her present situation, wanting something more, but she does her best to look forward.
2. She is independent, but not afraid to want a relationship.
During a central moment of Before Sunrise, Celine discusses her struggle between being a "strong and independent icon of womanhood," and needing someone to love. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, but with pressures that twenty-somethings such as myself face, it can feel like a choice. Celine demonstrates her independence throughout the film, but does not diminish it by saying, "Loving someone, and being loved, means so much to me."
3. She is not afraid of "imperfection."
While it may not be the best practice to indiscriminately discuss one's insecurities with just anyone, Celine is open about her struggles with Jesse, even as it may "ruin" the idealistic idea of her that he cherishes. I think it's safe to say the taxi scene in Before Sunset may be one of the most honest examinations of relationships on film. I couldn't help but nod along with Celine's cynical reflections. ("The concept is absurd! The idea that we can only be complete with another person is evil! Right?") She breaks free of the perfect regard that Jesse has held her in and reveals her "imperfection" and humanness.