Before Sunset (2004)

Same Actors. Different Day. Nine Years Different.


Richard Linklater’s sequel to “Before Sunrise” (1995) is named, believe it or not, “Before Sunset” . Just likes it’s ancestor, Linklater this time shared his screenplay credits with main actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as well as Kim Krizan, who was also the co-screenwriter for the first film.

Many critics believed “Before Sunrise” was a tremendous romantic success as a stand alone film and no-one envisaged it to be the birth of an impressive threesome, all except one man, Richard Linklater.  As movie enthusiasts we’ve perhaps become accustomed to how Trilogy’s usually perform within the film universe. The first is always a huge success, the hype is established, and then as each sequel roles by somehow the standard dramatically decreases. For example, “Jurassic Park”, “The Matrix”, “The Terminator”, “The Silence of the Lambs”, or “Alien”. All of which are immensely successful films in their own right and are highly rated by critics and fans alike, yet those series of films all have one thing in common; the sequels never reached the heights of that first film. However, Linklater managed to do something not many directors had done before, and that was to perhaps create a sequel that was most definitely on par, if not more improved than his “Before Sunrise”, which is certainly no mean feat.

“Before Sunset” picks up from the story of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who spent that one passionate night together in Vienna and later went their separate ways. Now their ordained paths converge once again nine years later in Paris, but this time instead of spending the entire night together awaiting sunrise, they will spend an afternoon together attempting to prolong the sunset.

This time Jesse and Celine surprisingly bump into each other at a book opening, for Jesse’s new novel and best selling book “This Time”, funnily enough. On his book tour of Paris, he does a reading at the bookstore “Shakespeare and Company” and as he is reading flashbacks occur of his time with Celine in Vienna. At that moment, while he is conversing with the audience, his eyes glance across the crowd and see’s Celine standing there, smiling back at him. What are the chances of that.

Now though, circumstances are different. Time has rolled by and inevitably they have both moved on since their earlier feelings for each other, “one thing they have learned, although they are slow to reveal it, is how rare it is to meet someone you feel an instinctive connection with”. Their organic conversation on this day reveals all of the changes in their lives. Jesse, now a popular writer with his book “This Time” becoming a bestseller, which is based on their brief rendezvous in Vienna. He is now married and has a son. Celine has also found someone new, a photojournalist boyfriend and she has become an advocate for the environment.

Just like “Before Sunrise”, the entire film unwinds in real time, just over 60 minutes to be exact. Their time together is again restrained by time, as Jesse has to leave for the airport to catch his plane home, but now time is even more of an enemy. Instead of having one night, they only have one hour and “the director Richard Linklater films them in long, uninterrupted takes, so that the film feels like it exists in real time”.

Just like the previous film, Linklater again does an amazing job with the natural dialogue between his two lead actors and his approach to their interaction is simply flawless, “but “Before Sunset” is better, perhaps because the characters are older and wiser, perhaps because they have more to lose (or win), and perhaps because Hawke and Delpy wrote the dialogue themselves”. “Before Sunrise” is most definitely still a love story, but it perhaps portrays regrets of love more than it does actual romance. Jesse and Celine both express dissatisfaction with how their lives have panned out after they went their separate ways.  Where as once they both had dreams of a big future love and blissful romance, now that seems to have died and been lost somewhere in the past, “only to be replaced by the unfulfilling dreariness of unhappy lives punctuated, at best, by minor satisfactions”.

In “Before Sunset” Jesse had a train to catch, and that time he perhaps made the biggest mistake of his life getting on to it. Now in “Before Sunset”, he has the same choice again, his flight time is getting nearer, “but what is free will for, if not to defy our plans? “Baby, you are gonna miss that plane,” she says.”. ]

This time, does the plane leave without him?