Irish Film Institute -Before Sunset

Before Sunset

Director: Richard Linklater

U.S.A.| 2004. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 82 mins.

There’s something uniquely life-affirming about the resounding success of director Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset, the most intelligent romantic film in quite some time. After all, it’s an unlikely sequel to 1995’s deliriously, swooningly perceptive Before Sunrise, a compact, self-contained brief encounter that asked for no further elaboration. That film introduced Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy)—
he a Generation X double-espresso American philosopher, she a beautiful, opinionated French bohemian—as they meet on a train to Vienna and spend the entire evening making out, debunking dogma, riding Ferris wheels, and romanticising the future in the way that only twentysomethings can . . . before parting ways the next morning.
Nine years after Sunrise, the stage is set for another enlightening encounter. Jesse is in Paris to promote his new book—Hawke plays the bad-author shtick with selfdeprecating aplomb—which is the story of his fateful onenight stand with Celine. Celine, now an environmental activist and amateur songwriter, shows up at the bookstore where Jesse is meeting the press, and they spend the next few hours reflecting, regretting, and romancing until, inevitably, Jesse has to fly back to New York. I won’t spoil anything beyond this initial set-up, because the rewards of Before Sunset are rooted in Jesse and Celine’s diversions from their initial idealistic fantasies. They are older, more sceptical and perhaps wiser, and so is the film.
Before Sunset runs a streamlined 80 minutes, and the dialogue, mature and consistently invigorating, is devoid of filler. Life is too short to dismiss hyperbole: this is one of the most heart-wrenching, deeply felt films I’ve ever seen. As sequels go, Before Sunset should serve as the prototype.

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