Before Sunset

on July 02, 2004 by Christine James
Writer/director Richard Linklater takes the concept of real-time seriously. This sequel to 1995's "Before Sunrise" not only documents the protagonists' every exchange, every movement, minute for minute; it also is set nine years later, which is the exactly how long it's been between the two films. The effect is elegiac for anyone who related to the first cinema verite Gen-X romantic drama, which starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, two hitchhikers in Europe who meandered around Vienna discoursing intelligently and passionately with idealistic college-student fervor on every conceivable subject for just one evening before going their separate ways, failing to exchange phone numbers, presumably trusting in fate to reunite them. Well, fate took its sweet time, but it now finds Jesse in France, promoting a novel about his once-in-a-lifetime encounter with Celine--and the venue happens to be Celine's favorite bookstore. As the two get to know each other all over again in the scant hour and a half Jesse has before he must head off to the airport, awkward reserve soon gives way to whimsical reflections, deep pontifications and heartfelt soul-baring.

The resonance lies in the truth of what Celine muses--that when we're young, we think we're going to have meaningful connections with people all of our lives, only to find they are all too rare. But following a couple around, listening to the sort of purple prose you only spout when you're afire with ardor for a new romantic interest, is not as fun if you're not on the date.

Linklater does an admirable job of keeping things flowing by having his protagonists walk through picture-postcard streets and hop on a boat taxi for some lovely moving travelogue shots to hold interest. The film ends on just the right note, both figuratively and literally, thanks to a beautiful song penned and performed in character by Delpy. Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Directed by Richard Linklater. Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Produced by Anne Walker-McBay. A Warner Independent release. Drama. Rated R for language and sexual references. Running time: 80 min

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