There are some movies that I watch with a kind of cheesy grin on my face; movies I am enjoying so much that I just can’t hide it. Director Richard Linklater’s 1995 romance Before Sunrise was one such movie and, I’m delighted to say, so is his 2004 follow-up Before Sunset.
Sunrise introduced us to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), who met on the train and spent one glorious evening together in Vienna before they had to return home in the morning; her to France, him to the U.S. They hadn’t exchanged phone numbers, addresses or even last names, but left each other only with the promise that they would meet again in Vienna in six months.
Sunset picks up nine years later. Jesse is in Paris promoting his new book—based on their one night together—when he looks up to find Celine. Their time together this encounter is even shorter. Instead of the entire evening, they have only one hour until he must catch his flight back to the states. They spend that time wandering around Paris talking about everything from politics to sex, slowly working their way up to asking the questions they’ve wanted to ask for the last nine years.
The idea seems simple and some may find it boring and a little talkee, but those who enjoy good dialogue and character driven romances will really enjoy. A good barometer is to watch the original. If you like Sunrise it’s a cinch you’ll love Sunset, but if you did not like the original, then you are not likely to enjoy the sequel.
One of the things I liked most about Before Sunrise was that I felt I was watching a real romance develop between two real people; not actors. The same can be said about Sunset, aided by the fact that both Hawke and Delpy wrote much of their dialogue themselves. Yet, the movie is not so much about what they say, but how they say it. Mannerisms and body language play a big part in this movie.
So, the burning question: do Jesse and Celine stay together this time? I do not dare to reveal the answer here except to say that the movie ended on a perfect note. I would love to watch a third chapter in another nine years. I give this movie an A.