Top 100 Films #44 – Before Sunset (2004)

 

before-sunset#44. Before Sunset (2004)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

The return of Richard Linklater’s incredibly popular characters Jesse and Celine took place nine years after the events – and actual release – of Before Sunrise in 2004’s Before Sunset.  The film sees the lovers reunited nine years later, this time in the city of Paris.  Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is on a tour to promote his new book This Time, inspired by his single night in Vienna with Celine (Julie Delpy). She surprises Jesse during a book reading, and the two decide to catch up and wander the streets of Paris.  The problem once again being that their time together is limited, as Jesse must leave to catch a plane in an hour.  Before Sunset is easily my favorite film of Linklater’s incredible Before Trilogy, as it takes everything successful about Before Sunrise but significantly raises the stakes. Both characters have aged by nine years, and their once idealistic and romantic worldviews have changed significantly – much like what happens between people in real life.  The script – this time written by Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy – uses the film’s fictional time constraints perfectly, with both characters being up front about what they need to say in order to gain closure, and skirting around the big issues.  The city of Paris, much like Vienna in Before Sunrise, is just as important a character as Jesse and Celine.  The locations are beautifully shot, Linklater’s tracking camera manages to capture the beauty of the city while never shifting focus from our two lead characters.  This focused and consistent direction is once again a sign of Richard Linklater’s talent behind the camera, perfectly realizing his vision for the film.  New revelations about Jesse and Celine also help to raise the stakes of Before Sunset, with Jesse revealing that he showed up in Vienna to meet Celine on their agreed upon date, and Celine not being able to make it because of the death of her grandmother.  Jesse is married and has a son, and Celine has become an environmental activist and is in a serious relationship. These changes in character are much more than superficial additions by the screenwriters, they’re reflected by the incredibly talented Hawke and Delpy – these significant life changes have affected their behaviours, views, and even the way they interact with each other.  Before Sunset may not technically be as romantic a film as its predecessor, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, Linklater and company convey the feeling that we’re catching up with old friends – who just so happen to still hold unrealized romantic feelings for each other.  The ending of Before Sunset is one of the most powerful final moments of cinema in the 2000’s, and may be my favorite moment in the entire series – it’s both subtle and suggestive in its own beautifully romantic way. Before Sunset is the strongest film in the trilogy, and a perfect date night movie for those in the mood for some classic Linklater philosophy and intellectualism.

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