Ever think about what happens after “happily ever after”? Do the characters at the end of movies live in some sort of eternal bliss and glee?
Of course not. But as viewers we don’t get to see what happens next in these formulaic Hollywood films. There are exceptions.
Enter Before Midnight, a new romance-drama starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and directed by auteur filmmaker, Richard Linklater. This is the third installment of films made about 10 years apart and follow two characters, Jesse and Celine, after their original chance encounter on a train heading to Vienna (see Before Sunrise and Before Sunset).
These films are known for engaging dialogue. Conversations that are “real,” poignant, and interesting. Characters share themselves, their ideas, and their opinions openly. They attack, praise, cajole, and surprise one another. We are carried through love and intimacy, thoughts about their relationship origins and life philosophies, the fruits and challenges of long-term commitment, and tense arguments.
Before Midnight is a quintessential “dialogue film.” This helps it be an outstanding “teacher” of positive relationships. Not only does it capture some of the everyday ups and downs—the joys and struggles—found in normal relationships, but it illustrates new scientific findings on positive relationships.
The topic of positive relationships is not a simple, contrived answer, like you would find in a formulaic Hollywood romance script. However, science has revealed some interesting findings. Check out these 5 tips:
Jesse directs his creativity—typically an intrapersonal strength—toward Celine after a significant fight. He makes up a story that he has arrived from a time machine from several decades in the future and has been sent to deliver a letter written by her future self to her present day self. He then picks up a random napkin and creates the letter’s content speaking of the importance of how their present moment sitting there was to end up becoming a key turning point in their relationship. In response, Celine directs her judgment strength (using critical thinking to see different angles of the problem) and her forgiveness strength to let go of her hurt and re-connect with him.
These strategies are reviewed in my new book, Positive Psychology at the Movies 2, as are 1,500 movie examples of character strengths and positive relationships.
Look for elements of these exercises in Before Midnight. And note that I’m not saying this couple is picture-perfect in their communication, but they are real and heart-felt. We can find ourselves in their interactions.
I nominate Before Midnight as the best positive psychology movie of 2013…so far. View it and let me know what you think!
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