Before Sunset
2004
Ethan Hawke reprises his role as Jesse, a traveling American who fell for a sweet French girl named Celine (Julie Delpy) while he was backpacking through Europe, in this sequel to the 1995 hit Before Sunrise that's set nine years after they met. Now a successful author, Jessie's on a book tour in Paris when Celine shows up at a reading, just hours before his plane leaves. It's their last chance at closure -- and maybe their second shot at love.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Naturally this film was billed as one of the most romantic releases of the year, and that's no lie, but don't rent it seeking a good excuse to snuggle on the couch. It's a complex sequel that depends on a thorough understanding of the 1995 original. (Alternatively, you could do like I did, and watch them in the same sitting for maximum enjoyment, though that kind of undermines the feeling of ten years having passed.) This talky romance is nearly film noir, with characters so wounded from their time apart that we ache and splinter along with them. This is a much more sharply emotional film, with Jesse's outburst on the boat and Céline's breakdown in the van being standout moments in a pair of films comprised of so many great scenes. But even with the well-turned phrases (marriage is "like I'm running a small nursery with someone I used to date") and the wonderful performances by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, this film is not entirely satisfying. It is nearly half an hour shorter and takes place in a fraction of the time, and absent entirely are the pedestrian encounters that gave the original film some vibrant local color. Other than a fantastic early conversation in a café, the dialogue is all business, and the two leads spend little time talking about anything other than themselves and their relationship; in other words, they've now grown as self-absorbed and boring as they weren't in the original film. Still, even a flawed Linklater film is a fascinating one, and we should all be so lucky to realize it when we fall in love with a partner as interesting as either of these lovers.

Footnote: Stay away from Roger Ebert's review until you see the film; he gives away the ending. His editor seriously needs to crack down on the spoilers.

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