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Before Sunset /

Rated: R

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

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Produced by: Richard Linklater, Anne Walker-McBay
Written by: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures


Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Warner Independent's Before Sunset
Ethan Hawke in Warner Independent's Before Sunset
Julie Delpy in Warner Independent's Before Sunset

     The main characters in Richard Linklaterís Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are two of the most interesting to have ever graced the silver screen. Rarely do I feel as warmly towards the mere product of the work of actors as I have in these movies. Watching them converse about everything from sex to the environment to religion to music to the beautiful weather theyíre walking amidst is heavenly. Essentially, the only dreadful part of Before Sunset, which takes place nine years after the first film did (the same amount of time that has passed since its predecessorís release), is when we must say goodbye to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), as the last frame of video plays. It looks like this is it for them; it would be miraculous if Linklater could handle turning this series into a trilogy, after ending Before Sunset on such an openly beautiful note. With these two movies, though, he has provided the film industry with one of the most wonderful gifts it will ever receive. They are contemporary classicsóbudding pictures about the beauty and hardships of love.

     Without having seen or hearing anything about these low budget treasures, as many people have not, my description of them may sound just peachy. But, they represent a rarity, as pure love stories. There isnít a single whiff of superficiality in Before Sunset or Before Sunrise; the two leads share something profound and special that we can rejoice over. In the first film, which moviegoers should be required to see before the second, Celine and Jesse meet on a train that is traveling through Europe (heís an American on vacation and sheís French and traveling home), and spark up a conversation. They instantly fall for each other. So, when he must get off in Venice, she, by chance, does so with him. They spend the night together, there, before he must fly back to the United States. Since neither is a fan of long distance relationships, they do not exchange phone numbers, but instead agree to meet at the Venetian train-stop sixth months later. In Before Sunset, we learn that he showed up there, but she didnít, because she had to attend her grandmotherís funeral on the same day. However, after the long nine years that they have spent apart, she finds him in Paris when she sees that he is signing copies of his book there, which is about their memorable night, together. They hit it off once again, but he is married with a four-year-old child and she has a boyfriend. Both of their relationships are shaky, but neither wants to leave their current companion. In the first film, the only sadness was generated from their breaking apart, but here, many regretful emotions are confronted, and a deeper movie is born.

     Before Sunset is comprised of only eighty minutes of extended takes of dialogue, but its simplicity is what makes it so magical. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have a beautiful, witty kind of chemistry that is always interesting. In order to keep the audience engaged in only conversation for a featureís entire length, a director must have both a great script and actors on their hands. Linklater, who dumped his old co-writer Kim Krizan and went to the two leads, themselves, to help him draft this screenplay, overcame enormous disadvantages. With only a limited budget and few locations, he has created the perfect film, which reams to be quite an amazing feat, even after considering the talented people he worked with. Before Sunset proves that as long as poignancy is accounted for and real emotions consume a cast of characters, a story does not have to be overdone or complicated.

     While watching this movie, we can laugh with Jesse and Celine, be moved with them, and, most importantly, enjoy their company. Before Sunset is a motion picture unlike any other (even Before Sunrise). Yes, the two characters may be extremely interesting people, but the reason why we have grown so fond of them is because we feel as though we, personally, have spent time with them. How many other movies are able to make any average person feel so at home? I donít think Iíve found a single one that is as deep as this. Jesse and Celine do not have particularly cheery lives; in fact, their everyday routines are often consumed by melancholy occurrences. But, a common-ground can work wonders for two people, and thatís exactly what they share. And almost all viewers will be able to relate to them, in one way or another, as well. I donít think that finding romance on a train and then wandering the streets of Vienna and Paris with the newfound lover could ever be as pleasurable as it is in these two films, in real life. It could certainly happen; Linklaterís projects are as realistic as any, only using contrivance when it is necessary to push their light stories along. But, would it? I donít intend on striving for such anytime soon, but I do plan to revisit Jesse and Celineís relationship, many times in the future. For having such common lifestyles, they sure are amazing people. But, all it takes to make a great movie is the recognition of the beauty of humanity and the world that it embodies. And, in that sense, Before Sunset has come to more realizations than most of us ever will.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.4.2004)

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