By Philip Concannon
, 20 Nov 2004
In 1995 a young American named Jesse(Ethan Hawke) was travelling through Europe when he noticed an attractive French girl on the same train. Summoning up the courage to talk to her he invited Celine(Julie Delpy) to have lunch with him and it's clear the two have a natural connection. When it's time for Jesse to get off the train he persuades Celine to come with him and the pair spend a romantic night together in Vienna.
The result was 'Before Sunrise', Richard Linklater's charmingly romantic film which ended on a cliff-hanger as Jesse and Celine promised to meet up in Vienna in exactly six months. So what happened? Did they both travel to see each other again? Or did they forget about their night of passion and get on with their lives?
Now we know. 'Before Sunset' is the story of Jesse and Celine's first meeting since that night. Jesse is now a novelist(the plot of his book sounds suspiciously familiar) with a wife and children and when he's at a book signing in Paris he suddenly spots Celine waiting outside. They only have a short amount of time to catch up before Jesse has to catch a plane. Can they rekindle what they had that night? Will they risk everything for a second chance?
'Before Sunset' is nothing short of a masterpiece. Co-written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy, the screenplay is stripped of anything that isn't honest, intelligent and romantic. As Jesse and Celine's initial awkwardness eases into a familiar intimacy, they spend an afternoon walking around Paris as they catch up on their lives.
Soon their dialogue starts to reveal a little more about their regret at not following up that night in Vienna, their lives have been tainted with a thought of what might have been. The film is shot in real time and it's impossible not to get sucked in by the intimate, eloquent dialogue. Linklater makes himself anonymous and lets Hawke and Delpy carry the film, which they do so effortlessly. They hardly seem to be acting at all here, so natural and easy is their chemistry. Hawke is funny and engaging while Delpy seems to grow more beautiful with each passing year.
As the would-be lovers come close to their time limit and reality looms on the horizon, the time for decision making rears it's head. Linklater wraps things up with an ending as perfect as any I've ever seen in the movies.
You don't need to have seen 'Before Sunrise' to appreciate this film as a few deft flashbacks give you all the information you need to know. To all viewers I really can't recommend this stunning film highly enough. It's sweet, sad, funny and heartbreaking all at once and, given the usual fare Hollywood passes off as 'romantic', it feels almost miraculous.
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