Play It Again – Before Sunset

Before Sunset

By Jess Lomas
June 19, 2013

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

As Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise came to a close, our lovers Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American tourist visiting Europe, and Celine (Julie Delpy), a Frenchwoman returning to Paris, each went their own way. With no numbers or last names exchanged, the couple proposed meeting again in six months’ time, back in Vienna where they fell in love. We aren’t given the chance to discover whether this reunion ever came to pass.

Nine years later and Before Sunset sees Jesse at an author’s reading in Paris, on the final leg of his European book tour. The book is a “small bestseller” and chronicles the couple’s night together all those years before. It also draws Celine to the bookstore, having seen Jesse’s photo on an upcoming events poster. With Jesse’s impending flight home only hours away, they walk the streets of Paris to catch up and ask the question, “Were you there in Vienna, that December?”

Before Sunset

The first feature was loved or loathed because of its dialogue-heavy structure. The film is essentially one long drawn-out conversation in which Jesse and Celine discussed their past, their dreams, and more; Before Sunset is no different. Yet, this time, there is a certain sadness to their conversation, musings of what ifs and whys.

Again the conversation flows naturally without an ounce of artificiality. Long continuous scenes across the streets of Paris melt into secluded moments. There are times when the two want to accept that it wasn’t meant to be, but this brief encounter reminds them of their connection, with each longing to embrace the other despite their fears. Early on in their reunion, the flash of a wedding band on Jesse’s hand is hard to miss, and there is an almost agony as we wait for Celine to raise the topic of Jesse’s wife.

While Before Sunrise was full of hope and naivety – Celine describing them as “young and stupid” back then – Before Sunset is bittersweet, a reminder of what could have been, and how each day’s choices make us the people we are today.


Before Sunset is available on Quickflix.

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