Before Sunset

Before Sunset


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Nine years ago Jesse and Celine met while doing the post-university grand tour of Europe thing. Disembarking from the train in Vienna they spent the day together then departed with the promise to meet up again six months later.

Now, having long wondered what happened next, writer/director Richard Linklater and his two co-stars - now co-authors - Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have reconvened to bring us this belated, yet very welcome sequel.

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Jesse is touring Europe once more, this time to promote his first novel, a roman a clef about that brief, life-altering encounter. He's on the last stop before heading home, at Shakespeare's bookshop in Paris, and getting tired of answering the same questions to the same faceless coteries of journalists and critics. Then Celine appears...

The first question on their minds and ours is what happened that December: Celine says her grandmother died so she couldn't go. Jesse says it's okay, because he didn't either, but the truth is immediately obvious to Celine and us.

Perhaps their paths crossed in New York, where Jesse was working and Celine studying? It's certainly the kind of Blind Chance that would entirely suit Linklater, always one of the most European of American independent filmmakers from the no-budget Slacker, with its Phantom Of Liberty narrative structure and asides on anarchism.

Or maybe not - what matters, after all, is they are here and now.

They talk about their lives, loves, hopes and dreams. Above all, it's the small details and nuances that matter - the warp and weft of human interaction; the generosity and chemistry between the performers; the sharpness of Hawke's features, or the unconcealed wrinkles around Delpy's eyes; the way in which Linklater is content to just take the camera and lead, or follow his collaborators, never striving for obvious effect.

Jesse's impending departure looms ever larger. They take a boat up the Seine, talk some more. We learn Jesse is married - sharper eyes than mine might spot the wedding ring before this point, or perhaps a little sleight of hand on someone's part - and has a young son, but finds his relationship unfulfilling. (One wonders here how far Hawke - himself an author, of course - is tapping into his own troubled marriage with Uma Thurman.)

Finally they go back to Celine's apartment for coffee. Their postmodern variant on the Pascalian wager - all this talking and philosophising cannot but also remind one of Eric Rohmer's assorted Tales - has paid off.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2004
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Before Sunset packshot
Two young people meet again in Paris nine years after a romantic night in Vienna.
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Read more Before Sunset reviews:

David Haviland ***1/2

Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, based on a story by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan.

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Louise Lemoine Torres, Rodolphe Pauly, Mariane Plasteig, Albert Delpy

Year: 2004

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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