Before Sunset (2004)

I started watching this even as I was reviewing Before Sunrise, because I couldn’t really be left hanging with the ending (I shall not reveal what happened, though I was satisfied) and wanted to spend more time with the characters.

This film takes place nine years after the prior one, which makes sense, since it was filmed nine years later as well. The characters have both aged nine years and things have occurred in the time between that may be expected, or not, may fulfill or satisfy viewers–or not. It’s hard to say, though I admit easily that I was quite satisfied myself. It is the nature of age to see things differently as time passes. I can’t, of course, profess to any understanding of the age of these two characters as I’ve yet to experience it myself (though, since the characters were my age in the previous film, I’d kind of like to review this one in nine years myself) but it feels right, and certainly fits with things I’ve been told. It’s fascinating to hear things from multiple points of view–Linklater, Hawke and Delpy scripted this film together–and see what things align with my own perspective and experiences, temporally relevant or no.

The most important things to note about this film are the increased skill present in all parts. Hawke, especially, has gained leaps and bounds in acting skill, and Delpy shows some subtlety I do not recall in the previous film. Certainly Linklater, as well, has gained new perspective on film-making, with an understanding that long cuts do not require stationary cameras, we now see that same familiar reality, but with a greater motion and momentum to it.

The dialogue in both films is really the focus though; seeing these characters who are representations of real people and the way they experience love. Here we see matured perspectives that still bear that signature mark of humanity that is an omnipresent immaturity in some matters, if not a miniscule amount in all of them, regardless of age, because we can never truly experience, know or understand absolutely everything. It’s fascinating to see what the characters recall of each other, and the things they don’t as they contradict or change claims made previously, just as a real person would, without necessarily recalling that previously they may have said something completely the opposite. But, that’s okay–people change, and they are not always aware of it, do not always see it.

The most visible, most commented on aspect is the change from youthful idealism and romanticism to a subtle tone of bitterness and disillusion–though a realistic sort, not one that crushes life, but simply shows the reality of life as inevitably…well…inevitable. It moves as it wishes to and wants to, does not consistently grant or deny wishes. Here, though, in this change in tone, we see the skill these two actors have gained. Subtle gestures and moments betray subconscious feeling, eyes show pain that words won’t express, and not every movement is carried to completion but always carries meaning all the same.

The conversation they have in a car on the way to Celine’s apartment to drop her off on Jesse’s trip to the airport is heart-rending, and feels awfully real, but shows the caring the two still have for each other even after nine years.

The only thing I had any complaint about was the length; at only 80 minutes, I was shocked when Linklater’s directing credit appeared when I was hungry for more. Yet, in retrospect, it was a good ending–just at an unexpected time. It felt, easily, that upon re-viewing the film I would be wholly satisfied, I have little doubt.

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