Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff
Director: Richard Linklater
Running Time: 80 mins
Before Sunset is an American film and the sequel to Before Sunrise. Nine years after their evening together in Vienna, Jesse and Celine cross paths in Paris, where they spend an afternoon rediscovering one another.
Following up on one of the most beautiful romantic films of all time is no easy task, yet Before Sunset manages it perfectly. Although not the same dreamlike wonder as its predecessor, this is a mature, emotionally engrossing and desperately fleeting reunion between two lovers, telling its story in just as beautiful fashion as the first film.
While Before Sunrise was an intimate and immersive tale of falling in love, Before Sunset brings to light the realities and challenges of the real world. Though it reunites Jesse and Celine for one gorgeous, sun-baked afternoon in Paris, it’s hardly the dream that their time in Vienna was.
The pair recount their memories of that blissful night, how it has changed their lives and perceptions, as well as how they themselves have changed over the past nine years. The agonising thoughts of what might have been linger over their reunion, but reality soon comes to the front of their conversations.
Their stroll together around Paris is just as beautiful as it was in Vienna, but the nature of their relationship is completely different. No longer the carefree youths of nine years ago, they discuss the mounting difficulties in their respective lives, as well as further considering their views on life and love once again.
The similarities to the first film are immensely pleasing, bringing back nostalgia and romantic memories of their first night together. But this sequel’s real power lies in what has changed, both subtly and not so subtly.
As well as ageing physically, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s demeanour is more mature, but also more stand-offish. The underlying tensions of the struggles of their respective lives bubble to the surface through their deep conversations, and that makes their relationship wholly different.
While the film does tell of the fleeting nature of their short meeting – playing out over an achingly short 80 minutes in real time – the realities of life bring more dramatic ups and downs to their time together.
Much like Before Sunrise, however, those ups and downs aren’t melodramatic, manufactured Hollywood ones. Instead, they build on what you’ve learnt about Jesse and Celine over the two films, enhancing your emotional understanding of both individuals, and as such offer the same intimate and genuine drama as the first film.
In that, the film has an engrossing contrast between the bliss and happiness of their unexpected reunion, and the brutal facts of real life that have altered the memory of their beautiful relationship forever. In tandem with the introspective and heartfelt conversations that play out through the film, that makes Before Sunset a truly riveting watch.
Overall, I adored this film. Though not the astonishing, dreamlike wonder of its predecessor, it’s a mature, equally intimate and achingly fleeting romantic drama that enhances the beauty of the first film, while telling another gorgeous, thought-provoking and touching tale of its own. And that’s why I’m giving Before Sunset an 8.2.