What if the one that got away still stayed hot and you looked really creepy?
Nine years after spending a night together in Vienna, Jesse Wallace (Ethan Hawke) is reunited with Celine (Julie Delpy) while on a book signing tour in Paris. There’s an obvious attraction still between the two but Jesse only has a short amount of time until his plane leaves which means that their meeting may be brief.
Before Sunrise was just about a near-perfect film for me. It had all the ingredients you could ever need for a great romance and I honestly do believe it’s one of the greatest romantic films of all-time, and that really is saying something. So for there to be a sequel to see what happened between the couple that graced that flick, made me anticipate just what the hell happened. Thankfully, I was not let down.
The whole film is about 80 minutes of these two people walking around Paris, talking, going into a coffee shop, then going onto a boat, and then talking some more but the film is never boring. Every single word that these characters let out had me on edge the whole time and I never felt bored by these two talking because even though they talk about generally nothing again, they still do talk about something, if that even makes sense.
What really works with this screenplay is that co-writer/director Richard Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy all came together on this script which gives it this realistic and almost heart-breaking truth to it all. In the first flick you see how these two have this sort of fantasy look at love and the world but now that they are older, everything is a lot more sad and angry around them. These two see the world in a different way like when it comes to relationships and they soon realize that the word “love” isn’t exactly what they thought it meant considering you had to worry about all of the non-nonsensical crap that comes along with it. It’s sad but at the same time realistic because you see how two people grow up and realize that the world isn’t what they once thought it was but still keep a grasp onto what made them happy in the first place. This also leads me into another idea that the film brings up: memory.
The conversation these two have constantly bringing up the miraculous one day they had together and most of the memories they have are very clear and feel as if it was just yesterday. These two are always reminded of that one day that they shared together not just through the way they speak to each other but also through their lives as both constantly could not escape or forget that faithful day that made them realize they really have something special together. The film is basically infused with the idea that as long as you and the other person are alive, the memory will never ever go away and no matter how much you try to run away from that fact it will always come right back to you.
Without Linklater behind the director’s chair though, I don’t think that this film would have even felt the same. Linklater is perfect at just letting the story and characters speak for themselves but that still allows him to do some cool tricks such as these long tracking shots that last almost 10 minutes every time. I love tracking shots and it’s just so great how Linklater can use them to create a certain amount of tension of realistic feel even if it’s just by focusing on one shot the entire time. Also, even though our minds are on the two characters the whole film, Linklater still allows for some beautiful imagery of Paris come into play and give us this view of the lovely place we knew in the first flick.
Where the real brilliance of this film lies is within the performances of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, who feel real together. Even though these two never worked again after the first until this flick, their chemistry is still there if not better because as I have said before, they are a lot older now and a lot more sad and angry emotions come out of each other. Right from the get-go, their chemistry feels natural and everything they say all seem improvised even though that is not the case. They are playful with each other and you know that there is just something special between them even if they don’t want to come clear with it themselves and watching them just exchange little glances at one another giving each other little smirks, made me feel like there was more sex in this film than there was in Shame. Both of them start to break-down in front of one another where they both not only show regret but also anger towards the whole situation of how they could have been together, but just missed out somehow. These two are just perfect together and I think the fact that Linklater allowed them to shed some personal issues into their script as well. Delpy was on the rise as an actress, finding roles that she liked and being happy with them, while Hawke was sort of going through a lot of personal problems with his wife at the time, Uma Thurman, and a lot of that shows through by the way his character talks in this flick as well. It’s great to see two stars working together not only on-screen, but on the script as well and shed some real human emotions that come from their own lives as well.
Consensus: Before Sunset is just as great as the first one with a perfect chemistry between Delpy and Hawke, a screenplay that feels natural and realistic, and the real human emotion of watching these two meet up after all of this time. Hopefully, there’s one last one to close out the series but in the mean-time let’s just get ready for Still Dazed and Confused: the 20 year reunion.