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Published on July 23rd, 2004 | by Michelle Thomas

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Before Sunset

Classification: 15 Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Veron Dobtcheff, Louise Lemonie Torres, Rodolphe Pauly, Mariane Plasteig
Rating: 5/5

9 years ago, two students, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) met
on a train to Vienna. After enjoying a spirited debate, Jesse persuaded
Celine to get off the train and see the city with him, and they spent a
single magical night together before parting. With the optimism of youth,
they arranged to meet under the Big Wheel in Vienna in six months time, and,
so as not to spoil the magic, didn’t exchange any contact details. Richard
Linklater’s little film was a delight, spending two hours in the company
of two very real people, and leaving the audience wondering, did they get
together? Could the magic last?

Nine years later, our questions are answered.

Jesse is now married, a father, and a successful writer on a European book
tour. His bestselling novel is based on the night he spent with Celine, and
it’s clear from the beginning of the film that that night has been the
most profound experience of his life. Celine comes in to hear his talk, and when
its finished, the two of them go for coffee, and catch up, and walk through
Paris, all the time aware that the clock is ticking and that Jesse has a
plane to catch.

This is simply a wonderful piece of film-making. If you liked the first
film, its like spending two hours catching up with very old friends. Where
have they been? What have they been doing? Do they still fancy each other?
Now in their early thirties, Jesse and Celine are older, more brittle, less
trusting, more cynical; both have been marked forever by one night in
Vienna. Celine avoids intimacy, preferring long-distance relationships,
while Jesse describes his marriage as running a small nursery with someone
I used to date’. Their regret at not meeting again is palpable, but was
it fate keeping them apart or just bad timing?

Wonderfully, just as in the first movie, the characters talk seemingly
randomly about whatever comes into their heads, so as well as the serious,
and sometimes downright depressing moments, there’s also a lot to make
you laugh. Celine worries that she’s become neurotic; when Jesse says she’s
thinner now, she responds immediately: Did you think I was fat? You wrote
a book about a fat French girl?'; but they also cover religion, the
environment, and American gun crime. Its also incredibly sexy; all light,
delicate touches and shy sideways glances and slightly awkward flirting.

Shot in real time, the movie just feels like a slice of life. Linklater
collaborated with Delpy and Hawke on the script, which feels so rich and
natural that it is hard to believe these are actors; they inhabit their
roles so fully. Once again, the film is open-ended ­ the audience I was with
groaned when it ended. You can only hope that Linklater and his leads will
be moved to revisit Jesse and Celine every ten years or so ­ I can¹t wait to
see them again.


About the Author

Michelle Thomas

An unashamed, unabashed, unrepentant movie geek, as a child I painted crosses on the walls of our house after seeing Dracula, convinced that our neighbours were vampires...Note to self: It's only a movie.



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