Before Sunset (2004) D: Richard Linklater

Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset

Director Richard Linklater released the no-budget, meandering Slacker in 1991 and became an instant indie darling. By the release of Before Sunrise in 1995, his penchant for long and involved, philosophical dialogue and tracking shots of characters in motion was well known. That film told the tale of two twenty-somethings on a Eurail train who meet and share a single night in Vienna. In parting, they swear they’ll meet in the same place one year on.

Almost ten years on, in 2004, Linklater released Before Sunset, the sequel. Before Sunset is a look at what happened to the young lovers. Did they return to Vienna a year later? Did they meet again every year after that?

Jesse (Ethan Hawke), it turns out, has become a novelist and has written what appears to be an autobiographical book about his night with Celine (Julie Delpy). As chance would have it, Celine has read the book and attends a book signing in Paris where the two are reunited. Again, they are short on time because American Jesse must catch a plane out of Paris that same evening. They spend what little time they have wandering around the streets of the city.

At its core, Before Sunset is a window into the way our romantic ideals change or are quashed with the trials and tribulations of everyday life. When they met, the characters believed everything was possible, that fate played a role in everything they did. With the passing of time we see they are somewhat more jaded and know that any lasting love must be worked at. Still, the illogical flame of true passion still burns within and Linklater lets us follow them around and see if it comes out. You don’t have to have seen Before Sunrise to care if it does or not, because their flirting and their tale are interesting enough.

Before Sunset is as much a love song to Paris as a truly romantic film about the excitement of new and honest love. Each long and carefully executed tracking shot through Parisian streets in the afternoon light as the old friends reconnect is an embrace of the City of Love. There’s a touch of Roman Holiday in the film, and Hawke and Delpy are almost as likable and striking as Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were. Linklater is quite clearly trying to imbue a situation as mundane as two people walking – people who have all the grown-up problems they didn’t have as traveling twenty-somethings – with a stunning element of romance.

This sweet morsel of a movie is a secret note to jaded viewers that real romance is very much alive if we look for it and let ourselves love and be loved. What serves as an end to this simple vignette may not be satisfying for some, but is arguably among the most memorable of romantic finales in years. Many viewers have been put off by Linklater’s love of the spoken word, but the charm of Before Sunset rests in the believable conversations and the easy and romantic connection between Jesse and Celine.

A warm Spring walk in Paris with a lover. 4.5 stars

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~ by mfnm on September 22, 2010.

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