February 2, 2005 -- “Before Sunset” is a talky sequel to the talky romantic film “Before Sunrise,” starring, and directed by the same people (Richard Linklater is the director). Stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke also co-wrote the script.
The movie takes place in real time. It looks almost like it was done in a single take. The acting is impressive since there are long, uninterrupted shots with a lot of dialogue for the actors to remember. The setup is this: Jesse has published a novel in the US and he's doing a book signing in Paris, when suddenly, he spots his old flame, Céline, and the two decide to spend some time catching up.
The dialogue is rich, literary, philosophical and romantic. We take a long, intimate emotional journey with these characters. He explores the problems with his marriage, she with her relationship with a photographer. Slowly, each of them starts to realize that they missed a chance to be happy nine years before when they missed a date to get back together. Each of them is scared of love and committment, but they must face the possibility of empty lives without each other. They dance around each other, avoiding the essential truths of their lives in an intricate dance of exquisitely subtle dialogue.
You see adult, intelligent love stories like this in mainstream Hollywood movies only rarely, “Out of Sight” being an example. They aren't much more common in independent films like this one.
The big problem with this love story is the existentialism mixed with romance. Existentialism isn't so much a philosophy as it is a form of mental constipation. The romance keeps smashing into this limited, depressing view of the world, making the film downright bleak at times. Céline's European environmentalism also encompasses a very pessimistic view of the world. Jesse's naive American optimism is a hell of a lot more romantic. A person is more inclined to take a chance on romance if he is a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.
Despite this problem, the story works and the characters eventually manage to get beyond their overwrought, overthought European existential ennui to approach something, if not romantic, on the cusp of romance. This film rates a B.
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