Before Sunset

2004, Movie, R, 80 mins


Richard Linklater's enjoyable sequel to his critically acclaimed almost-romance, BEFORE SUNRISE (1995), picks up nine years after the first film left off. Time constraints again dictate the way the story, written collaboratively by Linklater and his stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, unfolds. But instead of the protagonists sharing a too-short 14 hours, they now have just over one hour, which unfolds in real time. Nine years ago, strangers Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) met and spent one magical night roaming the streets of Vienna, only to separate at a train platform the following morning without exchanging any personal information but vowing to meet six months later at that same spot. Nearly a decade later, Jesse is a successful author whose European book tour has landed him in Paris. His novel, an idealized recounting of the events of that night, is being scrutinized by a press corps burning with the desire to know: Did the young lovers meet again? As Jesse struggles to evade the question, he spots Celine in the crowd. He wraps up his interview and quietly approaches her; they arrange to meet outside and he leaves the bookstore with instructions from the manager to return soon. Otherwise he'll miss his flight. As Celine and Jesse catch up, it's as though no time had passed at all. They discuss their lives and careers, world politics, the environment, relationships between men and women, and their divergent takes on what happened between them that fateful night. But beneath the comfortable chatter, the question lingers. Did either return to the train platform and, if so, what happened? Although Jesse and Celine have renewed their connection, being in the same place and feeling the same chemistry that sparked their brief encounter isn't enough. She has a boyfriend, he has a wife and child, and other obligations of the kind people inevitably accrue as they pass through life conspire to keep them apart. This sweet film is a genuine treat, even if there's little plot, no antic mayhem and its 90-minute running time is mostly consumed by nonstop, sometimes pretentious dialogue as Celine and Jesse meander together through pretty Paris neighborhoods. It requires more effort than the typical American romantic comedy, but Delpy and Hawke, who played a similar couple in Linklater's dreamy, animated WAKING LIFE (2001), are thoroughly charming and slip effortlessly into their by now comfortable roles. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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