Review by Ed Nguyen
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater
Audio: English and French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Video: Color, matted widescreen
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Featurette, trailer
Length: 80 minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2004
is a wonderful thing if you don't have to deal with the past."
1994, a little film named Before Sunrise
was released in theaters. Set in
the Old World European backdrop of Vienna, it was a tender tale of a brief and
fleeting romance. The story focused
entirely on a young American tourist (Ethan Hawke) and a young French girl
(Julie Delpy) who, in meeting as strangers on a train, decide on a sudden
impulse to spend the entire day together in Vienna, walking the promenades and
alleyways of the old city.
of the film casually observed these young travelers, Jesse and Celine, in their
myriad conversations about pet peeves or personal dreams and aspirations.
Forgoing conventional plot devices, Before
Sunrise was a film completely at ease with the simple pleasure and joy of
watching two young people slowly and naturally fall in love over the course of a
single day. The story ended the
following morning on a melancholy note as Jesse and Celine arrive at the
inevitable moment of their separate departures.
Though they must soon part company, perhaps forever, they solemnly vow to
try to meet again in Vienna in six months' time.
And thereupon Before Sunrise
drew to a close.
bittersweet conclusion was a nearly perfect one.
It expressed the sincerity of young love yet also served as a gentle
suggestion of the temporal quality of such romance.
We the viewers long for Jesse and Celine to re-unite, but in our hearts
we recognize how infrequently promises made in such passion, however earnest,
retain their same intensity months later. Before
Sunrise offered the hope of true love yet also a reminder of its
directed by Richard Linklater. Along
with earlier successes like Slacker
and Dazed and Confused, this film established Linklater among America's
most promising independent filmmakers, a director who possessed an uncanny
ability to invest his films with heartfelt yet truly earnest emotions.
Slacker provided a common voice
for the disenchantment of Generation X, while Dazed
and Confused was the 1990's answer to American
Sunrise, however, displayed a refreshing and mature attitude towards real
romance, not the usual sugar-coated Hollywood version.
Before Sunrise was essentially a
self-contained story, it did beg one lingering question - did Jesse and Celine
ever meet again, or was their time together in Vienna the only crossing of
(2004) provides the answer to that question.
Reuniting Richard Linklater with his stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Before Sunset picks up the story nine years after Jesse and Celine's
encounter in Vienna. Jesse, as we
soon learn, has become a novelist, and he is in Paris promoting a fictional (but
clearly autobiographical) account of two lovers meeting for only one day in
their lives and then never seeing each other again.
At the conclusion of an autograph and interview session in the Shakespeare
& Company book shoppe, Jesse suddenly spies Celine quietly watching him
from the aisles of the store. She
gives a little wave and offers a gentle smile.
It is a subtle yet magical moment; even before exchanging dialogue, Jesse
and Celine reveal the connection that still ties them together nine years after
the paths of their lives initially intertwined.
quickly concludes his interview and rushes over to greet Celine.
He has little more than one hour before his flight home from Paris, so
what then ensues over the next seventy minutes of real-time in Before
Sunset is a sublime if poignant reunion between Jesse and Celine. At first shy and hesitant, they begin to open up once again
to one other, slowly revealing the scope of their individual lives since their
parting. The film-long conversation
commences in the book store but soon continues along the rues and waterways of
once endearing and poignant, Before Sunset
unfolds like a slow waltz between two former lovers.
We learn whether either Jesse or Celine returned to Vienna again as
promised (and if not, then why so). We
learn of the accomplishments and disappointments since in their separate lives
as each ponders over the path-not-taken. Both
Jesse and Celine reflect on how their brief time together has affected their
subsequent lives and how those lives might well have differed if only Jesse and
Celine had met once more as planned.
Delpy's Celine remains as luminous and beautiful as ever, although perhaps wiser
and more cynical from the effects of her life's decisions, good or bad, over the
years. Ethan Hawke's Jesse is
equally world-weary, but when the couple are together, we can see the animated
sparkle of youth and longing that still persists in their eyes and their
reactions towards one another. Linklater
displays a great deal of restraint and subtlety in revealing many key details
initially in gestures or facial expressions, even before they are mentioned in
the dialogue. While Before
Sunset is extremely dialogue-driven, it can also be described, in this
sense, as a highly visual film.
casual, easy pacing of Before Sunset
almost belies the anxious nature of two young lovers meeting with only one brief
hour to themselves in which to condense the entirety of their experiences.
Much of the joy of Before Sunset
rests in watching the interactions between Jesse and Celine, even as both are
aware that they may never again meet. I
will not diminish the film's impact any further by discussing the
"plot," such as it exists, but I will say that the film's conclusion
is close to perfection, a dreamy and open-ended prelude to fates unknown.
Do Jesse and Celine still love one another?
Will they remain together, or will their paths diverge once again?
Linklater provides no concrete answers to these questions, and individual
viewers must find the truth within their own hearts.
too many sequels are redundant and made entirely for commercial reasons.
Before Sunrise made little
impact at the box office, yet it was nearly perfect in its romantic and
authentic ambiance. The intimate
sequel, Before Sunset, was thus never
a film with any lofty box office aspirations; it was instead purely a labor of
love for its director and stars, a film that succeeds from the universality of
its appeal. All audiences will
recognize a part of themselves in this film, whether in the optimistic idealism
of youth or the weary cynicism of adulthood.
Before Sunset is true love as
reflected in real life, and its raw emotions and honest portrayals outshine
those of most any Hollywood sequel.
quite gorgeous. Filmed on location
with mostly natural lighting, the film eschews a polished Hollywood sheen for
the authenticity of natural settings and lighting.
The transfer is very good, reflecting accurate flesh tones and realistic
colors. I detected no mastering
Sunset is a
heavily dialogue-driven film. Ambient
background noise occasionally enter the mix to recreate the sounds of Paris, but
otherwise, the conversations between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are
also wrote and sang three love tunes for the score (two appear in the opening
and closing credits, while the third is very integral to the film's denouement).
if you had a second chance with the one that got away?"
bad Warner Brothers did not deem this wonderful film worthy of more than a few
unremarkable extras. There is a
short trailer for Before Sunset, and a
"Making-Of" featurette (9 min.) is included but does not offer much in
the way of surprises. Still, it is
a pleasant excursion on the set with stars Delpy and Hawke as they both discuss
how the storyline evolved over the years since Before Sunrise. Perhaps
of most interest to admirers of the film is Hawke's desire to make more films
about Jesse and Celine over the course of their lives, from youth's carefree
gaiety to the inevitable responsibilities and choices of adulthood and finally
to the wisdom of age and maturity.
TRIVIA: Julie Delpy's real parents,
Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, make cameo appearances in the film's courtyard
scene by her apartment.