Classic Film | Issue 8
Before Sunset (2004)
Have you ever had a chance encounter with someone who you felt a real connection with? You might have even caught yourself daydreaming about an idyllic future together, but for reasons outside of your control you reluctantly had to part ways. Was it just a matter of right place, wrong time? Does this person still linger in your memory? If you were presented again with that missed opportunity some years later, what would you do?
Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset attempts to answer these very questions, at least for the characters Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they reprise their roles from the 1995 film Before Sunrise. The pair had met as young carefree travellers with a Eurail pass and the hours that they spent together in Vienna were both spontaneous and magical. Nine years have since passed, the setting is now Paris, and the fire is still smoldering; but much has happened over the long years since those few fleeting hours.
The fragility of the terms of their departure in Vienna, in pre-social media days, was fraught with impending disaster. Now reunited, things are no longer so carefree and easy, and life choices now impact on significant others. As the audience gets to eavesdrop in on their intimate conversations we learn that they are currently in long-term relationships – one of them even has a child. There’s much more at stake now. But not only that, they learn that they have never stopped thinking about each other, and that at different times and in very different ways, they’ve both searched for each other.
Sequels can be like a Vince Vaughn film – you can have high hopes but ultimately the disappointment is painfully predictable. In 2004, The Times rated Before Sunset as “one of the most rewarding films of the year.” I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is quite possibly one of the most rewarding sequels ever. In terms of great sequel expectations it’s right up there with the much-anticipated Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Thankfully, in both cases, the years of wait were worth it.
– Jane Ross