‘Before Sunset’ Movie Review (2004)

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunset
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunset

Photo: Warner Independent Pictures

Before Sunset is a follow-up sequel to Richard Linklater‘s 1995 romance Before Sunrise, which also starred Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It was a story where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) met on a Eurail train, immediately founding a 14-hour relationship, and as the pair explored the spontaneous and unexpected chance meeting in Vienna, it ultimately ended on a train platform where they swore they’d meet again six months later.

Obviously that meeting never came to fruition as Before Sunset finds the two nine years later with Jesse on the final stop of his book tour in Paris, France, where he suddenly finds Celine watching from the back of the room. Caught off his guard he stammers and quickly gains his composure and the two set off to a local cafe as he has only a few hours to spend with her until his plane leaves for New York.

The movie has a running time of an hour and 20 minutes and you will be fascinated as you take part in an 80 minute conversation as the picture runs in real-time. What you get is a gutsy film dedicated solely to two actors and their heartfelt conversation taking them through the city of Paris until it comes time for Jesse to leave.

Now, I never saw Before Sunrise, but it certainly doesn’t stop you from enjoying this film in its entirety. It is truly an exercise in realism with real conversation and stellar performances by Hawke and Delpy. Whether you have seen the first film or not you will immediately realize the magnetism these two characters have for each other, and the conversation they have draws out the prior situation the two were in, leaving you far from lost throughout.

In the production notes for the film, Linklater describes Before Sunrise as “an anti-Hollywood romance… it’s a romance for realists. We’re trying to capture something that’s realistic — closer to something that maybe happened in your own life than in a movie. I think the people who connect with it have the same connection that we feel, and that’s why we’re continuing to explore these two characters.”

This quote couldn’t be a more accurate description of Before Sunset as well as Linklater, Hawke and Delpy turn their love for the first film into a truly great original sequel. When a love story is left open-ended, as Sunrise was, there is never a follow-up to let you know just where the filmmakers thought the story ended up, and even though, most often times, you would like to think the end result was the best possible outcome, you will find in Before Sunset, sometimes the result you weren’t expecting can turn out just as good.

Before Sunset is the perfect summer date movie and to make it even better I would recommend you do check out Before Sunrise as I am certainly going to.



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