Movie Review #639
Studio: Warner Independent Pictures (WIP) – Castle Rock Entertainment – Detour Filmproduction
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures (WIP) – Warner Bros.
Spoken Languages: English – French
Directed by Richard Linklater. Produced by Richard Linklater and Anne Walker-McBay. Screenplay by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke. Story by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan. Characters by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan.
Rated R by the MPAA, for language and sexual references. Runs 1 hour, 20 minutes. Premiered at Berlin Internatonal Film Festival on February 10, 2004; at Vail Film Festival on April 3, 2004; and at Los Angeles Film Festival on June 23, 2004. Limited release in the USA on July 2, 2004.
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
What to say about “Before Sunset” depends on one’s comparison to “Before Sunrise”. Neither is a bad film, and as far as production, this second entry is superior (i.e. bigger budget, even sharper cinematography, several more extras). But “Sunset” has one fatal flaw that appears around the clock. The characters are reunited, nine years later, at a Parisian bookstore where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is selling his book. Whereas the first movie introduced the philosophy of presentism to structure a (more consistent) “Harry and Sally” relationship, this movie believes that what is in the past is what exists. Or what they want to exist again, desperately. Regardless, the whole setup is pretty much the same as “Sunrise”, a fine way of writing a sequel. The problem is they can’t stop reminiscing about what happened in “Sunrise”.
This is considering everything else that has happened in the nine years since they’ve seen each other. (A possible spoiler for those who haven’t seen “Before Sunrise”, but then again, it functions as an entire trilogy.) Those are the other things they talk about while walking through the city of Paris, before Jesse boards a plane for work. Céline hasn’t had much to do. She’s read Jesse’s book, and it changed her life at least half as much as their one-night stand did from nearly a decade before. Neither can believe it’s been that long. She’s married to another man, with two daughters. Jesse has written his book, and worked hard at it (especially since it’s about their one-night stand). Other than that, he’s gotten married and had a son.
“Before Sunset” is far more eventful than those nine years, and while it should be much more eventful, it’s difficult to notice. The screenplay is even better than last time, particularly the dialogue. It’s what excuses the lack of plot, and also what bridges the gap between “Before Sunrise” and “Before Midnight”. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy co-wrote, which, in conjunction with their superb acting, pretty much transforms them into their characters at this point. The conversations are constant but engrossing, and perhaps realistic, now that the movie’s locked into real time. By the time the movie’s over, we’ve been left with a catharsis that, although not as atmospheric, leaves us hanging for what is to come.