As the sequel to Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset is another excellently written romance drama that is both captivating and thoughtful. It is the second movie in the Before trilogy. Taking place nine years after Jesse and Celine first shared one memorable night together in Vienna, the two are reunited by chance in Paris. Once again focusing on the beautifully spoken dialogue between the pair, Before Sunset proves to be another relaxing but thought-provoking watch. Solely starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy once more, the pair manage to showcase their palpable chemistry with another solid performance.
The biggest question on everyone’s mind is, of course, whether or not Jesse and Celine actually met up six months after their night together in Vienna. Unfortunately, the disappointing answer is revealed shortly into the film: no, they did not. Having to attend her grandmother’s funeral, we learn that Celine left Jesse waiting alone at the train station. And without ever exchanging phone numbers or addresses, the two were never able to reconnect. With that, nine years passed.
I was quite sad to discover that their plan to reunite failed and that it was only by chance that they were able to meet again. Because this is a romance movie, there’s this tendency to have false hope that movie magic will always create a happy ending – I certainly hoped for that. But of course, with Before Sunset being a movie that thrives under its realism, that wasn’t that case for Jesse and Celine. The struggle lies in the fact that although both share a deep longing for one another, this connection that they feel is burdened by their present relationships – Jesse is married and has a child while Celina is in a relationship with a photographer. There’s a real “the stars just didn’t align” feeling to this movie.
In comparing the two films, I have to say, I enjoyed Before Sunset much more than the first movie (and I really liked the first one too). Now that these two characters are fully developed and with their relationship already established, they almost immediately fell back into place with one another upon meeting. The movie is essentially about dreams and dear memories; what happens when you get a second chance with the one that got away?
With both Jesse and Celine having experienced many hardships during the time they’ve been apart, I found their conversations this time around to feel more mature. They had so many life lessons and experiences to share with each other, and it was fun seeing how much they’ve grown as people. While the first film’s dialogue had a kind of fierce passion and young love feeling to it, this movie is much more reflective and introspective; there’s a lot of “what could have been” questions being thrown out there. I liked seeing the two older and wiser, but also a bit more cynical too.
With the film leaving again on an ambiguous note, I was left wondering whether Jesse and Celine will rekindle the flame, or leave things as they were: a warm memory. With its short runtime of around 80 minutes, the movie ended in a flash. I was so engaged with the story and Hawke and Delpy’s fantastic performances that I didn’t even realize how much time had passed. It’s truly amazing just how captivating the story is despite its simplicity. I think it’s because of how earnest and natural the movie feels that it allows me to feel so relaxed. I enjoyed Before Sunset very very much and I’ve decided to give it a 9/10. Once again, I can’t help but think the movie only succeeds thanks to the chemistry of Hawke and Delpy – their raw and genuine connection is what allows the movie’s conversations to really shine and speak directly to the heart.