By Noah Forrest
The premise is deceptively simple.
American boy meets French girl on a train. Boy and girl spend an enchanted night together in Vienna. Boy and girl agree to meet up in six months without exchanging numbers. They don’t.
Nine years later: older boy and older girl meet again in Paris.. Boy is separated from his wife; together, they have a son in the U.S. Boy and girl’s spark is reignited. Boy misses his plane back home.
Nine years after that: man and woman, now married with children, vacationing on a beautiful patch of Grecian coastline with their family. Man and woman struggle to connect in ways that were once so easy.
Richard Linklater’s trilogy of films (plus a brief appearance of the protagonists in “Waking Life”) starring Ethan Hawke (“Jesse”) and Julie Delpy (“Celine”) are probably the finest exploration of love over time since Francois Truffaut’s “Antoine Doinel” series.
“Before Midnight,” the third in the series of films (after “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”) hit theaters earlier this summer and will hit DVD and Blu-ray on October 22. By its nature, this installment is the darkest and least conventionally “romantic” of the three films, as well as the deepest.
Yet in many ways, this is the most romantic film of the series precisely because it’s about the reality of what happens after most films fade out. Things are messy. The last half of the film is essentially one long fight between the couple we’ve adored for the last two decades and it is excruciating and exacting. Nothing is off the table in this row, whether it’s their two young girls or Jesse’s ex-wife or the teenage progeny of that now defunct marriage, Hank.
It’s that last part that intrigued me from a legal perspective.
Apparently, during the nine years between the second and third films, Celine and Jesse lived in New York for two years; Jesse’s ex-wife and Hank lived there, too, and it seems that Jesse and his ex-wife shared custody of their child. But things changed when, late in Celine’s pregnancy, Jesse and Celine traveled to Paris so Celine could be near her parents during the “complicated” birth of their twins. Sometime during this period, Jesse’s ex-wife moved Hank to Chicago. As Celine was recovering, Jesse’s ex-wife petitioned an Illinois court for, and was granted, full custody.
Or to put it another way: Man’s first wife moves her son from New York to Chicago and is granted primary custody when Man is helping second wife recover from a complicated delivery in Paris.
Sure, I loved the film. But I did wonder. Is what Jesse’s ex did kosher? Does Jesse have any options to try to regain joint custody? LASIS investigates.