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The Movie to Watch for Long Term Relationship Advice

05/31/2013 05:44 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 05:12 EDT
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If you pay attention to the tabloids, longevity in relationships is the stuff of myths and legends. Kim Kardashian and her 72-day expression of everlasting love, Heidi Klum and Seal -- even Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman nearly split after 30 years together. You'd think that, after that much time, you would have the whole relationship thing down to a science. The problem is, science has nothing to do with it. Relationships are messy, and sometimes love sucks.

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Of course, there are those moments when it's better to break it off. You find out your better half has been sexting 15 different men? Probably wise to move on. The queen of all your dreams turns out to be a closet serial killer? Call the cops and dump her. Still, we're all so trigger happy these days it seems like very few people want to deal with the tough, unpleasant, unromantic phases of a relationship. Not the "Oh, crap! My girlfriend is Ted Bundy" moments. I mean the regular, everyday, "This person is driving me crazy right now" moments. You won't always be 22 and carefree and riding on a train through Europe, wondering if you should doodle in your journal or take a nap. Eventually you're 40, settled down, raising twin daughters, and you don't have time to spontaneously hop off a train in Vienna and roll around naked in a park with someone you just met.

This dilemma is at the heart of Before Midnight, the third instalment in Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke's story of the long and winding relationship between the American Jesse and the French Celine.

If you're a diehard groupie of the first two films like I am, you remember that Celine and Jesse first locked eyes back in 1995, when they were in their 20s. It was love at first sight, and they wandered through Vienna all night talking about life and philosophy and books. They were wrapped up in that first rush of attraction that makes you feel like you could just die right that instant because it's all just so wonderful. Nine years later, in 2004, they teamed up again for Before Sunset. That time, Celine and Jesse were in their 30s and were more worried about careers and the future than they were that night in Vienna. The mystery and romance were still there, though.

"It's age appropriate for where they find themselves in life," says director and co-writer Linklater. "In the first movie, they're unattached, and you see how easily they can get off a train. Now you see how difficult it is to manoeuvre through life with one other person. It's tough." He's right. Have you ever tried keeping that wild attraction alive when you're at the store together buying toilet paper and Tums? "We've all been through those emotions in a relationship and it's not a fun thing to go through," says Delpy.

That's one of the great things about Before Midnight -- it's definitely the most serious of the three films, but it's also the funniest and, in my opinion, the best. How boring would it be if they made yet another movie where two people make googly eyes at each other until their libidos implode?

"So many people in a relationship kind of give up, and then they build more resentment than they would if they were fighting it out at the moment," says Delpy. "They should be fighting. I think what destroys relationships is when the woman or the man will say, 'OK, fine, let's do it like that,' and then they are never happy. That's the end of a relationship, when someone gives up the fight." It's not always easy to fight. Say you're afraid of rocking the boat or you just aren't in the mood for high drama and you'd rather watch TV and zone out. Sustaining a long-term relationship sometimes means that you're going to get emotional, and it's going to get ugly. The key is whether you can get through it or not.

"I've talked to a lot of people now, and what charged them up and made them feel good is to see these two people who are still trying and still communicating," Linklater says of the characters in Before Midnight. "[Celine and Jesse] are still making each other laugh when they can. You see them in the ring together. I think often in relationships one or both have kind of checked out. I think it's hopeful and it's a good depiction of two people who care enough that they're still working."

Watching these two characters walk and talk feels a hell of a lot more interesting -- and true -- than watching characters in a big-budget romantic comedy rush around obsessing about their wedding. Before Midnight understands that long-term love never comes easy, and romance isn't always about long walks in a Viennese park.

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