Before Sunset (15PG)Thursday 22 Jul 2004
Duration: 0 minutes
Directed by Richard Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
Nine years ago two strangers met on a train and spent a night talking and wandering around Vienna, falling in love with each other and making audiences fall for them even as they parted, promising to meet in six months. In many ways, 'Before Sunrise' was the perfect romance - short, unfulfilled and thought provoking. And we never did know if American student Jesse (Hawke) and French idealist Celine (Delpy) managed to meet again - until now.
The sequel opens in the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare & Co where Jesse is talking to a small audience about his debut novel, an autobiographical work about a couple who spend one night together in Vienna. In the middle of some pretentious answer to a question, he catches sight of Celine on the sidelines. It's a meeting fraught with expectations, not least those of the audience, and neither writer/director Richard Linklater nor his stars (and co-writers) disappoint.
Once again, there's a time constraint on the couple: Jesse has a plane to catch in little over an hour and Linklater uses this premise to unfold the film in real time. Once Jesse and Celine had an entire night to spend together, this time it's just a scatter of minutes - as one gets older, time becomes scarcer. The constraint works perfectly with the first half of the film meandering through the back streets of Celine's Paris, the conversation taking a similarly circuitous and sometimes awkward route through Trappist monks, Eastern Europe, masculinity and marriage. As time starts to run out, there's a real sense of tension and urgency, with both Jesse and Celine eventually unable to resist probing beneath their ostensibly content surfaces.
Like its predecessor, 'Before Sunset' is dialogue-rich and saturated in words as Jesse and Celine flout all rules of scriptwriting by talking at and over each other, interrupting and interjecting in a rambling, occasionally contradictory conversation. Although no longer as freshfaced and innocent as they were in 'Before Sunrise', they're still both as infuriating and loveable - and as evidently right for each other - as ever.
Sweet, funny and thoroughly entertaining, 'Before Sunset' is a rare case of a sequel being as great as the film that preceded it. Like 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', this is a bittersweet, grown-up love story. Good enough to turn the most cynical of viewers into romantics.