Before Sunset (2004) - Review

by - March 26, 2019

Synopsis: Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse's book tour.

What If You Had a Second Chance at the One That Got Away?

Before Sunset picks up nine years after Before Sunrise, where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is a published author on a book tour to promote the novel he wrote inspired by the night he shared with Celine (Julie Delpy) in Vienna. His book tour has a stop in France, where Celine shows up at Jesse's author Q&A. Jesse has a couple hours before he has to be at the airport to catch a flight home to the States, and the two take advantage of what little time they have to catch up.

Like Before Sunrise, Before Sunset revolves around Jesse and Celine's discussions about life, sex, and love. Deeply profound and sometimes silly, it's very clear that the chemistry between the two has not dulled one bit since that fateful night in Vienna nine years before. They have more to discuss now, of course. Where their career paths have taken them, the relationships they've experienced and how their one night together has affected them, for better and for worst. Despite the positive reviews I had seen, I was a little nervous to watch this. Before Sunrise was magical and I was worried that a sequel would simply be a pale rehash of it, or perhaps the characters and chemistry would feel forced. Thankfully my concerns were unfounded. It was like Hawke and Delpy slipped effortlessly back into character without missing a beat, and incredibly, the dialogue continued to feel natural and improvised (both Hawke and Delpy received writing credits on this film).

While Celine and Jesse have clearly grown up, they both still harbor a spark of their idyllic, younger selves from that night in Vienna, though it seems to be hidden underneath a thin layer of cynicism and unhappiness. There are a lot of questions, a lot of "what if" and "why didn't we", and you can tell they're thinking about those same regrets as they get closer and closer to when Jesse has to depart for the airport. As with Before Sunrise, there is no need for supporting characters as Jesse and Celine make their way through Paris, lost in each other's company. It's so difficult to have a movie revolve solely around two people with the main focus being dialogue rather than any real action, but with Linklater's patient direction, Delpy and Hawke remain intriguing and romantic enough to make such a simple premise captivating.

As they change their methods of transportation, their conversations deepen and their frustrations from the past nine years begin to reveal themselves. They're flawed people who can't seem to take that leap, perhaps too worried about what it would mean if they finally did jump into a real relationship. What if they ended up hating each other? What if these brief, passionate moments in time are worth more than a lifetime together? The last thirty minutes of the film is the most engaging, wherein the car ride back to her apartment Celine's emotions get the better of her and she finally explains to Jesse just how their one night together has ruined her. It's such a brutally honest scene and Delpy's performance is mesmerizing as her anger and sadness begin to overwhelm her.

As Jesse continues to push the time needed to get to the airport so he can spend a few more minutes with Celine, Celine continually reminds him that he'll miss his flight. He knows it, but the question lingers, does he care? I couldn't wait to find out the answer. Before Sunset is such a romantic, engaging movie about second chances. It somehow manages to maintain the charm and magic from Before Sunrise, making it a worthy sequel that comes extremely close to maybe even being better than the first film.

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Rated: R
Watched: 03.25.2019
Fun Facts:
- The title of Jesse's book is This Time.
- The man and woman that Celine speaks to in the courtyard of her apartment are played by Julie Delpy's real parents, Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet.
- Julie Delpy wrote and performed three songs for the soundtrack.
- Before Sunset was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards (sequels are considered adapted, rather than original).
Notable Song: A Waltz by Julie Delpy

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  1. Before Sunrise is one of all time favorite movies, and Before Sunset is close by. Unfortunately, I haven't seen Before Midnight, but I'm not worried, I'm sure Ethan and Julie will be back in character and the chemistry will be the same. I'm thinking of doing a marathon of the three, I just have to find a weekend to do it. Great review!

    1. thank you! I actually watched Before Sunset and Before Midnight back to back last night. My review for BM will be up tomorrow (but don't read if you haven't seen it lol). It was a brilliant ending to the trilogy, IMO and I think you'll really like it if you enjoyed the first two. It's different but a wonderful film.

  2. The ending to this one is so Perfect that i refuse to watch The next one. I just want the things to stay happy :)

    1. Before Midnight isn't necessarily UNhappy. It's a tough watch but it ends perfectly IMO! :D

  3. Nice review! Before Sunset is such a great sequel, which I didn't entirely expect. The ending to this one is so good. Celine's song is so beautiful, I haven't watched Before Midnight yet in fear of how everything turns out. lol

    1. BM is rough! But I absolutely believe it's worth a watch, and I adored the ending.


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