Early thirty-something American Jesse Wallace is in a Paris bookstore, the last stop on a tour to promote his best selling book, This Time. Although he is vague to reporters about the source material for the book, it is about his chance encounter nine years earlier on June 15-16, 1994 with a Parisienne named Celine, and the memorable and romantic day and evening they spent together in Vienna. At the end of their encounter at the Vienna train station, which is also how the book ends, they, not providing contact information to the other, vowed to meet each other again in exactly six months at that very spot. As the media scrum at the bookstore nears its conclusion, Jesse spots Celine in the crowd, she who only found out about the book when she earlier saw his photograph promoting this public appearance. Much like their previous encounter, Jesse and Celine, who is now an environmental activist, decide to spend time together until he is supposed to catch his flight back to New York, this ...Written by
I will be the first to announce that I was not a huge fan of the original film. While I thought that it was interesting to see as well as an untapped concept in Hollywood, I felt that the characters were too forced coupled with a very amateurish and repetitive moments. It was an average film that seemed to be lacking bits of the human element. It needed something more. At the time I couldn't put my finger on it, but after seeing Before Sunset, I could see what it was. Maturity. This may sound strange, but I felt that Jesse and Celine were too perfect in the first film. They lacked connectiveness to the average person. I couldn't see myself in this situation. Perhaps if I would have seen the original film in 1995 instead of a couple of years ago, it would have been closer, but I just couldn't capture the moment. In Before Sunset, I feel head over feet for both Jesse and Celine.
They seemed to have grown and experienced a life that was all their own. They seemed more passionate, more powerful, and especially more human. From their first meeting in the bookstore until the finale in Celine's apartment, I was fully immersed in their conversation. I wanted to know everything I could about both of them, and I did. I loved hearing about Celine's passion for the environment, and Jesse's distraught marriage. It brought these two characters out of the screen and into our lives. Whether it was a scripted story or if Hawke and Delpy were playing off each other, it worked. I witnessed in this film two people who were made for each other. It was more obvious in this film than in the prior outing.
What made this film work on such a higher level than the first were the actors. They have grown and emerged as two important commodities in the Hollywood community. This is probably Hawke's greatest performance in years. His relaxed actions made us feel relaxed around him, yet quietly pushing for him to be closer to Celine. His pushy sexual advances seemed less forced and instead more like honest love. He looked and felt like a man that has been dreaming of this encounter all his life, and it finally happened. You could see the excitement in his eyes to see Delpy again. It was more than just acting, he put so much heart into this performance that it was clearly displayed for all to see. The same goes for Delpy. At the beginning of this film, I didn't like her character. She seemed rough and rigid around the edges, constantly giving off that feeling that she was harboring a secret that she didn't want Hawke to know. As her character grew in this film, I understood why. She had a different life after the encounter than Hawke did. While he still longed for Celine in his heart, he did move on. She longed for Jesse in her heart, and to this day could not find anyone to replace his purity. I loved Celine much more in the sequel because she kept us guessing. Did she remember their night together? Did she really loose her grandmother, or did she just not show up that day in Vienna? Was the song just for Jesse? So many questions left me wanting more and more and more.
Finally, I would like to say that Linklater is growing with his films, and this was a crowning achievement for him. He powerfully and delicately built a sequel that was for superior than the original. He continued with a similar format as the first, but gave us stronger characters and another beautiful city. The language in this film is intense. Listen to the words that come from Ethan and Julie, they embody so much of our culture and our lives. There were moments when I felt they were speaking thoughts directly from my mind. Everything in this film was connected and worked to the fullest extent of cinematic possibility.
Overall, this was a brilliant film. Linklater captured the essence of these two heart-struck people and proved that it could be filmed. This is one of the ultimate love stories that will remain on your minds far after the film is over. The intimate final lines will continually reverberate as the best ever in a movie. This was a huge step up from the original, and is one of the best films of the year. If you were not a fan of the Before Sunset, I suggest that you check this out. It is a mature film that explores the power of love in a way that no other Hollywood film could. I would not be surprised if we saw the title of this film in the Oscar celebration this year. Check out this film to hear social commentary of our lives, fall in love, and especially to see the beauty of Paris.
Grade: ***** out of *****
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