Before Sunset Reviews
"Before Sunset" is an improvement from its predecessor, the wonderful "Before Sunrise" (1995), the characters being older and less optimistic than they once were, the content establishing itself as more involving, and with a screenplay written by the leading actors themselves and thereby strengthening the likable realism of the film. More is at stake, a sense of yearning for fulfillment being much more urgent. The fleeting nature of "Before Sunrise" is nowhere to be found, a special, temporary night being replaced by a now-or-never afternoon in which self-reflection is integral. And we like Jesse and CÚline more now, fond of how they've matured in the crossroads of being a thirty-something.
Because much has changed in the nine years since they saw each other last: Jesse is unhappily married and has a young son, and CÚline has dedicated her professional life to a sizable amount of activism. Them coming across each other by too-good-to-be-true chance perhaps isn't so strange: Jesse has become a hugely successful author in the last decade or so, his latest best-seller being a semi-autobiographical tale about his fateful night with CÚline. He's on a press tour, his last stop Paris. CÚline catches him just as he's leaving what she bills her "favorite bookstore." And so begins hours of chatter, both small and big, both witty and confessional.
Those familiar with "Before Sunrise" might recall an ending that promised that the central twosome would meet again in Vienna after six months, exchanging no contact information solely because trust seemed like enough. But in "Before Sunset," it is revealed that, while Jesse came as promised, CÚline did not, due to familial tragedy. This change of fate acts as the center of the film - what would have happened had the couple met again half-a-year later? they (and we) ask themselves (and ourselves) over and over again. And so the movie is a second chance, and a lyrical one at that.
We are embroiled in this relationship, and, differing from most film characters, we love Jesse and CÚline. We want them to be together in a way never felt in most romantic films, as we feel like we know them, have spent time with them, unlike most where a few cute incidents and dramatic make-out sessions are enough to enforce true love. Jesse and CÚline are the rare exception because their affection seems genuine; it's like watching people watch in love, and we take for granted what an enthralling experience that can be in the movies.
Most impressive is the repartee between Hawke, Delpy, and director Richard Linklater, who work together so fluidly that completing the sentence of the other wouldn't be out of the question. Hawke and Delpy have effervescent electricity running in-between them, and their dialogue, co-written with Linklater, suggests improvisation when the truth is totally otherwise. What they do here is enormously difficult - how can a sequel be a cohesive continuation, and how can a film whose success is solely based on conversation act as a feature? - but it looks effortless.
So where "Before Sunrise" was a poignant indie exercise, "Before Sunset" draws on what made it great and transforms itself into a poignant indie masterpiece. I cannot think of a modern romance film that has affected me so immensely - it's one of the best ever made, without all that Hugh and Julia bullshit that I sometimes like. Imagine that.
Nine years after the events of "Before Sunrise", Jesse has become a bestselling novelist thanks to a book based on the events of that night with Celine. On his promotional world tour, he ends up meeting Celine again in France.
While I understood why "Before Sunrise" achieved its cult status and I praised most of the techniques used to tell that story, I found it underwhelming to my taste thus I wasn't exactly anxious to see Jesse & Celine again, but surprisingly this sequel managed to surpass my expectations (which admittedly weren't that high to begin with). "Before Sunset" takes all that made its predecessor as beloved as it is: The acting is even better, Linklater┤s directing is more personal and even more showoffy due to some long takes, even gorgeous settings, the characters are more developed, the pacing takes advantage of every single minute of this short running time, the comedy is still somewhat funny, the interactions are as relatable as last time (or even more, or at least for me), the minimal soundtrack works when it is used, and the romance is taken to new directions but it still is believable. But the best thing of this sequel is the script. Thanks to Hawk and Delpy, the dialog is no longer the pretentious hippie Linklater┤s trademark, it is natural, adequate to the age of these characters, emotional when it's appropriate, and overall more engaging.
"Before Sunset" is one of those sequels that are undeniably better than the original. It has all the elements that made the first one as unique and enjoyable but mixed with a more mature script and even powerful emotional moments.