June 13, 2005
It’s been nine years since Richard Linklater’s thoughtful and touching romance, Before Sunrise (1995) graced screens. Since then fans of the movie have wondered and ruminated about what happened to the two main characters. Did they meet up as promised or go their separate ways forever? Linklater and his two leads, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, have decided to revisit these characters and try to recreate the magic of this first film, so cherished by its admirers.
Jesse (Hawke) is in Paris promoting his first novel—about his night with Celine (Delpy) nine years ago. Apparently by chance, she shows up to his reading and they decide to spend the ninety minutes he has remaining before having to go to the airport catching up with each other. She playfully chides him for romanticizing their night a little too much for her liking in his book. They talk about getting older and appreciating things more.
The good news for fans of Before Sunrise is that Linklater, Hawke and Delpy are able to recreate the chemistry that their two characters had in the first movie. As soon as they start talking, it comes back almost immediately, as if they never stopped talking since that last time. Like the first film, Before Sunset (2004) is a dialogue-driven movie, effortlessly picking up where the other left off.
The conversations Jesse and Celine have are interesting and intelligent. It feels natural, like an actual discussion between two people as they bring out the talky side in each other. What works so well about this movie is that it is fascinating to see how these two characters have grown (or haven’t in some cases) over the years. Jesse likes how Celine is putting her passion into action by working for an environmental organization and believing in a cause instead of just bitching about it. He, however, is now married and has a son but seems unhappy.
As the film progresses it becomes obvious that he still thinks about their first and only night together. As Jesse remarks, “I remember that night better than I remember entire years.” They talk about how their lives might have changed had they met again in six months as they proposed. Jesse, in particular, is haunted by this notion and regrets the missed opportunity. In a nice bit of role-reversal from the first movie, it is Jesse who has become the romantic and Celine the cynic. He talks about how much he thought about her over the years but she refuses to romanticize things as much because it is too painful for her. Before Sunset is a refreshing romantic movie in that you have two characters who really talk to each other and that doesn’t resort to the usual clichés.
“On the Set of Before Sunset” featurette has Linklater talking about how he kept imagining and thinking about these characters over the years. Hawke and Delpy brought a lot of their own ideas and stories to the film. This was clearly a labour of love for all three as they figured that it would only appeal to the small following who intensely loved the first movie.
With sequels there is always the trepidation of whether or not the magic of the first film can be recreated. It is safe to say that Linklater and co. have done it. Fans of the first movie will no doubt fall in love with these characters all over again as they talk and rekindle their friendship. During the course of the movie you can sense that Jesse and Celine don’t want their brief time to end and neither do we.