Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Going to the Movies, Nourishing Your Soul

before-midnight

Last night Drew and I did something we haven’t done in almost two years since before Jackson was born: we went to the movies together. We’re usually pretty good about getting out together — we go out on dates maybe twice a month or so — but have a hard time justifying the cost of a babysitter to go sit in a dark theater and not talk to each other, which we could just as easily do for free at home. But “Before Midnight” the new movie in the “Before” trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, was one I really wanted to see in the theater. I saw the first two movies, “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” in theaters when they were first released, 18 years ago and nine years ago, respectively, and I wanted to continue the tradition. Luckily, our friend Mary offered to babysit, so we got a free night out (well, the movie tickets and drinks afterwards weren’t free, but you know what I mean).

I’ll talk a little more about the movie itself tomorrow, which was great and one I highly recommend (but see the other movies in the trilogy first!). What I wanted to talk about here is the weird, sort of out-of-body sensation I experienced for just a few seconds while watching the movie last night. Because the whole trilogy spans 18 years (in real time and in movie time) and because it’s the same actors playing the characters, you get to essentially see them age and evolve while you yourself have aged and (hopefully) evolved. The characters begin to feel like people you’ve known for a long time or like people you once knew and are getting to know again on a different level. Maybe in some sense, for me anyway, they represent parts of myself — both parts I like and parts I don’t like — and their life trajectory is pretty close to my own. In a way, the line between reality and fiction becomes a little blurry, at least while sitting in a darkened theater watching this couple whom you’ve come to know over the span of 18 years bicker about some of the same stuff you and your husband bicker about. And, for a few seconds, I actually forgot not only which movie in the trilogy I was watching, but where I was, both in terms of physical location and my own timeline. Like, it could have been 1995, the year “Before Sunrise” came out, for all I knew. For a few seconds, I honestly lost track of time and place, and I remember having this moment where I was trying to quickly orient myself in reality and I had this thought: Just enjoy not knowing.

It only lasted a few seconds — ten seconds, max — and I was back. I was me, 36, married, a mother, sitting in a movie theater in Manhattan on a rainy Tuesday night in May, Drew by my side. Always by my side.

After the movie ended we ducked into a little bar down the street with dim lighting and leather booths. I had a glass of wine and Drew drank two beers. We talked about the movie — about what we liked and didn’t like about the characters. We both agreed that Celine, Julie Delpy’s character, had grown increasingly unlikeable since “Before Sunset” nine years ago. I recognized that some of the things I don’t like about Celine are some of the things I don’t like about myself. I could see that, if I continue to let the stupid shit her character gets worked up about get to me too, I might be like her in another five or six years (maybe sooner) — bitter, tired, on edge. She doesn’t like that she spends so much time taking care of her family, which includes a set of twin daughters, and never does the things that used to nourish her soul, like play guitar and sing.

I thought about how I’ve been making more of an effort to take care of myself lately — riding my bike some mornings when Jackson is with his babysitter, taking pilates class once a week even though it means leaving Drew to put Jackson to bed on his own. As a wife and a mother, it’s hard sometimes to justify taking time for yourself — time you could be running errands or cleaning or cooking or tackling the never-ending to-do list — but watching a movie like “Before Midnight” is a good reminder that investing in yourself — doing things that nourish your soul (like going out to the movies with your spouse) — is also an investment in your marriage and your family. It keeps burn-out at bay so that, when you do have a night out alone with your partner, whether it’s meandering through a village in Greece or losing track of time while watching a movie in a theater in New York, you can enjoy yourself — and each other — without built-up resentment threatening your good time.

28 comments… add one
  • avatar

    lets_be_honest May 29, 2013, 3:12 pm

    Love this little essay. Such a good reminder for all of us (and the ‘always by my side’ comment was very sweet).
    I thought I was excited to see it before, and now I’m really excited. Has it really been 18 years? Jeez.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark May 29, 2013, 3:33 pm

    I have ONLY heard great things about this movie… Loved the first two.

    Speaking of movies — everybody! Please hold a good thought for me as I am going in this afternoon to be put on tape (audition) for the supporting lead in an Independent SAG feature. If I land this — I’d spend three to four weeks shooting in the great old state of Mississippi! Long shot, but I am definitely RIGHT for this part. 🙂 (Bitter, gay best friend who knows far, far too much about the salacious gay going ons among a secret Southern Society) And yes, there IS a murder.

    So please! Wish me well!! 🙂

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    • Just Max

      Just Max May 29, 2013, 3:37 pm

      Best of luck, Mark! 🙂

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    • LadyinPurpleNotRed

      LadyinPurpleNotRed May 29, 2013, 3:40 pm

      Good luck, Mark! I’m sure you’ll kick ass!

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    • Lindsay

      Lindsay May 29, 2013, 3:45 pm

      Good luck! That sounds like an awesome character.

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    • Classic

      Classic May 29, 2013, 3:47 pm

      That is great, Mark! Good luck!

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        lemongrass May 29, 2013, 3:50 pm

        Good luck!!

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      bethany May 29, 2013, 3:53 pm

      Good luck!!! If you bring the same passion to the role you bring to LWs who “accidentally” get knocked up, I’m sure you’ll get the part!

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle May 29, 2013, 3:57 pm

      Ooh, good luck!

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        No Pantalones Today May 29, 2013, 4:41 pm

        Good luck!!

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      Samantha May 29, 2013, 4:06 pm

      Good luck, break a leg, kick some ass!

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray May 29, 2013, 5:51 pm

      Get it, BGM!!

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    • avatar

      Amanda May 29, 2013, 6:13 pm

      Break a leg Mark!

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    • bittergaymark

      Bittergaymark May 29, 2013, 7:48 pm

      UPDATE: Well, that actually went quite well. I really felt good about it. I played each scene three times on tape for variety and minor adjustments. Everybody was very complimentary… There are lots of variables… But I definitely didn’t just absolutely blow it. ;). Now the waiting game begins… Thanks for the love, everybody!!

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      • avatar

        mf May 29, 2013, 9:46 pm

        Awesome! Congrats! If you get the part, we’ll have to arrange some DW meetups to see it when it comes out.

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  • avatar

    lemongrass May 29, 2013, 3:53 pm

    This is sweet. And also helpful to read as I am taking a break right now, close to that burn-out stage. I’m lucky that my husband is sensitive to my emotions and is putting E down for a nap right now. I look forward to when he’s older and we can get a babysitter and spend some time by ourselves. I know I’ll miss this time though, even this week as he goes through a growth spurt and literally will not let us put him down and for the most part just wants me.

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  • BriarRose

    BriarRose May 29, 2013, 4:07 pm

    Um, this is so ridiculously appropriate, since I just had a “discussion” with my boyfriend that started with me being jealous of his ex-wife helping out with their son while I raise my daughter alone, and ended with him telling me I put too much work on myself and should just relax in the evenings. I was so upset (he just doesn’t know what it’s like, doing it alone!) and honestly, still am because this just happened like 30 minutes ago, but I suppose he has a point. My house is really fucking clean, and if I want to just read a magazine or watch Arrested Development, I should just do it, and not worry about sweeping up the kitchen floor or whatever.

    I always give women the analogy that they have to put on their own oxygen mask before they take care of their kids or others, but it seems that advice doesn’t always apply to me. I’ll always wish I had some help, but I can’t use that as an excuse for not taking care of myself. Thanks for the reminder, Wendy.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest May 29, 2013, 4:13 pm

      Sending relax vibes your way!

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      • BriarRose

        BriarRose May 29, 2013, 4:36 pm

        Thanks LBH, but I seriously just need to learn to chill. I put too much pressure on myself and it’s no one’s fault but my own. Although the boyfriend does need to figure out that a free night to himself should at least include some sort of statement like, “I wish I could come see you, but I need to do x” so that it doesn’t seem like he’s just sitting at home and not taking advantage of a chance to come see me. But that’s just my girl brain talking.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle May 29, 2013, 4:55 pm

        My situation is way different from yours (I feel like I need to preface with that whenever there’s a child involved in someone else’s situation, haha), but if it makes you feel better, I am also having extreme “girl-brain” going on this week with my boyfriend.

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      • BriarRose

        BriarRose May 29, 2013, 6:37 pm

        Girl brain doesn’t discriminate! Glad to know I’m not the only one this week.

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    kerrycontrary May 29, 2013, 4:49 pm

    I haven’t seen any of these movies but now I want to!

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      rachel May 29, 2013, 5:12 pm

      Same here!

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      Addie Pray May 29, 2013, 5:31 pm

      I loved the first one. In the second one Julie Delpy was annoying to me. Not her charater, but the actress herself. … I didn’t even realize there was a third one! Gotta see it, stat.

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    • othy

      othy May 29, 2013, 5:39 pm

      I just added them to my netflix queue, but sadly, they don’t have them on instant watch.

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      • avatar

        applescruffs May 29, 2013, 6:09 pm

        I know! Boo.

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  • avatar

    Jodee May 30, 2013, 11:44 am

    As someone who’s seen both prior and loved them, and works in the film industry (primarily as a script consultant), I have HUGE problems with this movie. There’s stuff I like a lot about it, but you guys really nailed one of my biggest issues (SPOILERS AHEAD, Maybe?): Delpy. In past films she’s passionate and smart and yes, sometimes frustrated, but also contemplative and open. She’s the girl. Who tracks down the guy after 10 years. Because she hears he wrote a book. She’s a romantic! In this one, she’s as you describe the whole way through: bitter, jaded, angry. It’s like two sides of not entirely similar coins. Her intelligence is somewhat there, but it’s hard to fathom that this feminist, smart lady would put up with everything she claims to put up with. I have a hard time with the start of the film, too; the other 2 jumped right in! This one had 45 minutes of unnecessary “other people” backstory. Personally, I didn’t care. The other two didn’t require on-screen backstory to give us insight into these characters. This one felt like lazy writing. Like the obligation of time forced them to say “hey, let’s add more characters.” I didn’t feel even one of them was necessary on-screen. As such, for me, I was hugely disappointed with most of the film. The latter part finally felt like what I was waiting for (them, together, talking), but having to sit through sludge to get there was tiring. From a consultant standpoint, I’d have told them to start at the walk to the hotel. Everything else was distracting from the end goal, not contributing to it. Part of the allure of the early ones is not needing those distractions – we learn about these people without having to see their friends/families; part of the draw is the ability of the writers to do it all through dialogue, without feeling so heavily trapped in exposition. I love these actors, and I loved the first two films, but (professionally speaking) this was lazy filmmaking. Huge disappointment. That said, my best friend, who is currently ending his marriage, felt overwhelmingly positively about it. His favorite of the year, thus far. So, I’m likely in the minority. But going to movies is a great way to escape and recharge, especially art-house-y ones where there are fewer rampant texters (and the movies are usually better, anyway).

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  • avatar

    Rachel @ Reality Chick June 1, 2013, 8:29 am

    Thanks for sharing this Wendy, I must say it was really nice to read in the wake of yet MORE studies coming out about how babies wreck marriages blah blah. (You might have seen the study, if not google ‘baby quake’). You and Drew seem to have a really nice balance with being parents and nurturing your marriage and your own personal needs as well.
    Must get around to seeing this flick, my friend asked me last week but I couldn’t go… On the list tho.

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