Ethan Hawke had it all in the nineties. He was an upcoming star after his breakthrough role in Dead Poets Society. He wrote a well-received novel The Hottest State. He married Uma Thurman, with whom he starred in the cult classic Gattaca. But somewhere along the way something went wrong. His acting career didn’t turn out as the promise suggested (with Training Day as the big exception!). His second novel, Ash Wednesday, was not as good as his debut, which he made into a film all by himself. That wasn’t a good choice, because it flopped critically and financially. And on top of that he divorced Uma with whom he had a daughter and a son.
Now he’s back in the spotlight, thanks to his role in the surprise movie of the moment Boyhood. You can see him get older as the father, who ran away from his family but became a sort of steady factor for his children in the end. The movie reminded me of the Before Trilogy in which we follow a couple with nine year intervals. In Before Sunrise (1995) two young people meet on the train to Vienna. Jesse is an American student and Celine is from France. He has to catch a flight the next morning. Although she planned to travel on to Paris, he seduces her to take the train a day later. So they can stay together in Vienna for one day. At the end of the movie they promise to meet each other again at the same place in six months (no cellphones or Internet!).
Nine years later in Before Sunset they ran into each other in Paris. Their lives have taken different turns and it’s the first time they meet again. He wrote a romantic novel about their encounter and is on a promotion trip. He is married, father of a son and has a plane to catch late in the evening. He decides to spend the time with her instead of waiting on the airport. The big question is if they will get each other this time. The third film is Before Midnight that is situated somewhere in sunny Greece. Jesse and Celine have their own family with girl twins. But Jesse has to bring his 12 year old son to the airport. After their holiday he has to go back to his mother in Chicago. This is the start of a quarrelsome day. The relationship between Jesse and Celine is apparently strained because he wants to be more with his son and she doesn’t want to go to America. It is a sad part of the trilogy, but it is also a reflection of how things turn out in real life.
Both projects (Boyhood and Before Trilogy) were made by the same director, Richard Linklater. That wasn’t surprising because both deal with the same theme: how time changes our lives. The three Before movies all have an open ending. The big question is: will there be a new movie in nine years (2022) or is it all over?
Here you can read my blog about Boyhood (in Dutch!)