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Before Sunset

Released 2004. Director: Richard Linklater

NINE YEARS AGO ON A TRAIN TO VIENNA, two strangers, Jesse and Celine, struck up a conversation and continued talking for the next 14 hours. It’s an indelible moment in their lives, a time when two persons found the possibility of true love. That movie is Before Sunrise, the best romance of the 1990s. Elegant in its minimalism, it’s a hopeful meditation on the ideas of soul mates, connection, everlasting love. Blissful, magical, heartbreaking, it all surfaces through endless chattering, a long conversation as the characters walk on the streets of Vienna.

Before Sunset picks up the strand nine years later in Paris, where the couple meet again, with only 80 minutes before one has to leave. The outlook of the sequel is more mature. Gone are the philosophical rambling, abstractions and youthful optimism, replaced with an idealism that’s tinged with equal parts cynicism and passion. There’s startling honesty, hurtful truths, exhilarating discoveries in their dialogue.

The emotional progression is so natural and smooth it’s hard to think that such purity is the result of a script written (and no doubt rewritten many times) between four writers. The deep, instinctive connection they shared nine years ago is evident. But now Jesse and Celine have grown older and more experienced with relationships, there are other concerns, such as commitments, spouse and family. One of them describes married life as “running a nursery with someone I used to date.” This next stage of life comes with a different baggage as they examine second chances, choices, and most of all, what makes a person fall in love – and remain in love – with the same person. Can this lost love be the kind of lasting love that most people seek, but few, in their heart of hearts, truly find?

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are charming and perfect in their natural portrayals, not only in what they do and say, but also in what they don’t say (or haven’t said). Their body language is just as vital as their spoken words. The way he sits, the way she moves to a Nina Simone song, some things are better conveyed without words. For two persons who understand that they’re meant for each other, and that they might have missed a life they’ve intended to share together, the longing and regrets are clear. This time, will they stay or will they go? All conversations must come to an end, and the last two words in the film are exhilarating, brilliant – and teasingly ambiguous.

"Baby, you're gonna miss that plane."

"I know."


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