Before Sunset (2004) (R)

“Before Sunset” is the follow-up movie to the very successful “Before Sunrise”. To be honest, “Before Sunrise” seemed like a movie that could not be made into a franchise. The story was about two young, optimistic lovers who meet on a train ride and spend an unforgettable night in Vienna. Their night is filled with incredible dialogue and conversations about everything from sex to the meaning of life and reincarnation.
At the end of “Before Sunrise”, (SPOILERS!) they promise to meet each other at the train station in Vienna in six months. Not exchanging phone numbers or addresses for fear that this act would stifle the magic, they cross their fingers and simply trust the other person.
“Before Sunset” begins nine years after in a small bookstore in Paris. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) has become a successful author and is on a book tour for his new novel—the story of said tome is about two lovers who meet on a train and spend one night together, vowing that they would meet again...sound familiar? Jesse is asked several questions, most people want to know if the book is autobiographical. Trying to separate the man from the character, Jesse is hesitant about dissecting his real life.
Near the end of the interview, Jesse peers out the window and notices Celine (Julie Delpy) standing not far off. He quickly wraps up the questions and walks over to Celine, in a state of shock.
The truth soon comes out as the two strike up once more in perfect fashion: Celine was unable to meet Jesse at the train station six months because of her grandmother’s funeral.
Smiles and hugs are exchanged and the two start to walk around Paris, knowing once more that they only have a given amount of time...Jesse has to leave at night.
“Before Sunset” is shot in what feels like real time. A boat ride is said to take fifteen minutes. If you watch carefully, it takes fifteen minutes. 
The movie is short, only a hour and twenty minutes long; but Richard Linklater, the writer and director of “Before Sunrise”, is able to bottle lightning for a second time.
To be fair, nothing really happens in “Before Sunset”’s a movie that embraces its short running time, relying on its script and its actors.
Jesse is still the romantic, though the nine years have not treated him kindly. He’s become more pragmatic in his poetry—though, as evidenced by his book, it’s still there.
Celine is still slightly neurotic (at one point she makes a comment about her neuroticism and how it doesn’t exist—we all see through her) but is able to open her arms a little wider to love.
Physically, the two look much the same; but emotionally, they have changed so much. Here is where the script shows how smart it is. Through their short walking and talking, many of the same instances from “Before Sunrise” are brought up. Childhood memories are revisited, casual references to sex are made, and questions are asked about the after life. Compare the two movies and you will find differences...the characters have morphed in such slight ways that it’s almost indistinguishable. It feels so natural.
The movie, like its predecessor, is grounded in a fairy tale realism. The meeting of the two lovers feels out-of-place; until they start talking.
I cannot emphasize how good the script earned a worthy Oscar nomination.
It’s important to note that Hawke and Delpy wrote the screenplay with Linklater. They knew their characters well enough to give them words.
Their is a dismal beauty to “Before Sunset”...the maturity of the characters is paired with a yearning to be someone. Jesse and Celine would probably like someone to make all their decisions for them—it would make life less complicated.
Their careers have started, their real lives have begun; yet they are still lost in the world.Were they meant to be together?
“Before Sunset” is such a beautiful movie—heartbreaking, funny, and full to the brim with love.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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