Note: A long time ago, I wrote this review of Before Sunset and Before Sunrise. It was more an appreciation of my favourite movie rather than a review, but it was incomplete as such. Time and again I have been advised to revise it, rewrite it... so here is my attempt. I don't pretend that this is a review... it's rather an appreciation, a way of sharing my thoughts on why the movies are beautiful.
Meeting a stranger on a train, finding a connection, and spending a day with her in a foreign city: seems like a stuff of daydreams, doesn't it? But that's precisely the world into which Richard Linklater takes us in Before Sunrise: a movie filled with magic as two intelligent young people spend an intensely romantic and conversational day in Vienna. The movie is made magical as much by the brilliant dialogue and direction by Linklater, as by the chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy. There has rarely been a better screen couple.
She is intelligent (I believe, more than him), free-minded, and in her own words, "a strong independent (french)woman". He is an happy-go-lucky guy from the US who has tried to learn French, and ponders over life and what he wants to do in it. They discuss their past crushes, future plans, listen to beautiful poetry on a river bank, and contemplate over marraige and death in a church, and kiss in the sunset.
One of the most beautiful moments occurs in the listening booth of a audio store, as they glance at each other, only to look away when the other catches him/her, while they listen to Kath Bloom's beautiful "Come here". Later, they wander into an alley, where Jesse says that he'd rather die knowing he had done something, rather than knowing he'd cared for his family, and loved them. Celine tells of an old man she knew who regretted doing just that, and then says
"I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something."
That has got to be one of the most beautiful lines I've ever heard in any movie.
As the night draws closer, the tension builds, for Jesse has to catch a plane the next morning, and they both know they have just this one night. Are they comfortable with it? Are they going to not write or phone because it "fizzles out"?
A subtle tension develops in a movie which was only romantic, thoughtful (not to mention funny) until now. This undercurrent finally surfaces in the last scene, where they promise to meet each other in six months. But will they?
Aside from a little screen time in "Waking Life", we don't meet Jesse and Celine for ten years, until Before Sunset. By then, Jesse has a wife and a kid, and Celine is a long-term relationship. But he hasn't been able to forget their magical day, and has written a book about it. He comes to Paris for promoting the book, and Celine is there!
Turns out they didn't meet again in six months, and have spent the last ten years regretting it. But they are slow to admit it: At first, they casually ask each other about their lives, their families, as though they are just friends who have met after a long time. But inside, there is anguish, grief, and, still, love. It finally explodes in a car as Jesse is dropping Celine to her house, and he has to catch a plane soon. The car scene is intense, and what follows later is a movie conclusion which simultaneously thrills, surprises, and is fitting to the story. I wonder what they'll do when they make a third movie... only 7 more years .
What I liked most about Before Sunrise is how it is filled with the energy of youth, and filled with conversation that potrays accurately the thoughts of optimistic, soul-searching modern generation boys and girls. Before Sunset follows it up with the anguish of lost opportunities, the rarity of connection, and two protagonists who are even more interesting now that they have matured and their worldview has changed.
You won't find two better movies on life, love, youth and growing up. Even if you hate romances, these are two movies so different and good that you should seek them out. There is insight in the conversations, and real meaning to the things they discuss, feel, and face.