Do soul mates exist? You might think so if you've been following the saga of Jesse and Celine across the breadth of Richard Linklater's indie film trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and now Before Midnight. The premise: Two strangers who meet on a train feel an inescapable pull that now spans decades and continents. Can a love like that really be denied? Jesse and Celine themselves (sorry, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) reminded us last night, at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Before Midnight, that it's just a movie — and movies set us up for unrealistic expectations. "I don't really understand that concept, soul mates," Delpy said. "I don't necessarily believe that soul mates are who you end up in a relationship with. And I don't know about the soul — I'm not sure the soul exists! In my last film [2 Days in New York], my soul was in Vincent Gallo's underwear, so it's hard for me to say. It's too crazy!"
Says Hawke: "I sometimes resist the notion [of a soul mate] because it creates this idea for people who are single that there is something missing, which I don't think is true. If you find somebody who feels like a soul mate, you're the exception. We create this idea [in the movies], but it's like being born Michael Jordan. Not everybody gets to be that fast. But that doesn't mean my life is less because I'm not Michael Jordan."
That's not to say that Hawke and Delpy, who also co-wrote the movie with director Linklater, don't believe in love. It's just that Midnight presents a more realistic idea of long-term commitment. "The first two films are about flirting — in this one, the flirting's over!" Delpy said with a laugh. (Spoiler alert: Jesse and Celine are now raising a pair of twins together, and their new focus is on keeping their relationship going despite work and life struggles.) Will love be enough? "Love is a big word," Hawke said. "It would be horribly arrogant of us to presume to make a statement about something as big as love, but it's our relationship to it, for sure. People who are fans of the other movies, I'm sure their relationships to romance and love are changing, too, as they grow up. It would be weirdly stagnant of us to not address that, you know?"