Movies I Need To See Before I Die: BEFORE SUNSET (2004)


(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

I saw the first one, BEFORE SUNRISE, back in 1995 when it first was released on VHS.  I had a major migraine during the whole movie….. AND I STILL LOVED IT!  That’s how you can tell how good that movie was.  I probably saw it a couple of more times in the 90’s, but it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve seen it last.  I never got around to seeing the sequel, BEFORE SUNSET.  Even though it was getting rave reviews, I was still skeptical.  BEFORE SUNRISE was so beautiful as a stand alone movie, that I thought that maybe a sequel might ruin the meaning of it.  I owned it on DVD, but I just could never bring myself to watch it.  Well, now there is a third one coming out called BEFORE MIDNIGHT.  My press screening is in less than a week, so I thought this would be a good time to watch.  But first I re-watched BEFORE SUNRISE, and I loved it just as much this time as I did when I first saw it.  It’s one of the best screen romances as far as I’m concerned.  I was crying my eyes out all over again.  It immediately made me want to see what was going to happen next, and I didn’t have to wait either.  I had the DVD ready to pop in.

If you haven’t seen BEFORE SUNRISE, you might not want to read the rest of this review if you don’t want to know what happens at the end of it.  Alright…. here goes…..

The previous film ended with Jesse and Celine saying goodbye to each other, promising that they’ll meet in the same spot in 6 months.  This movie begins 9 years after that day.  We find out that they didn’t meet again 6 months later and have now gone on with their lives.  Jesse has written a book about that one day that he and Celine shared, and is now on a book tour in Europe.  On his last day in Paris, Celine shows up to the bookstore that Jesse is appearing at.  They decide to go out for a quick cup of coffee, since Jesse has to be at the airport in a couple of hours.

Just like SUNRISE, this movie is one long conversation.  Taking place in real-time, Jesse and Celine discuss life, politics, sex, and the world.  But then they get to a tender subject.  That one fateful day 9 years ago.  What happened?  Did either of them go to that spot 6 months later?  And is that spark still there?  Wait a minute…. are either of them in a relationship now?  These are subjects that are brought up throughout the movie.  I won’t get into the details, because discovering them for yourselves is part of the enjoyment of the movie.

Many people consider this to be even better than SUNRISE.  I’m going to disagree.  I prefer the other.  However, I think that’s a bit unfair.  Even though stylistically they’re the same, tonally they’re different.  While the first one was hopelessly romantic, this one is realistic and cynical, which may be why people love it so much.  Now, I do think this is a really good movie, but maybe because of where I am in my life, I prefer the first one.

There’s some impressive things going on in this movie though.  Technically, there’s some great long stedi-cam shots.  One of them even lasts for 10 minutes as Jesse and Celine talk about how there lives may have been different if they actually met again that 6 months later.  It’s fascinating to see how both characters have changed and grew.  They’re older, and more realistic.  They have kind of lost that youthful hopefulness, but you can see it come back the longer they spend time together.  I also liked that you didn’t know what was going to happen.  In a way, it was really suspenseful because you know that they only have a little over an hour together.  Should they try again?  Do these 2 really belong together?  And the ultimate question: Will Jesse get on his plane? 

Even though the film is just 2 people talking, you can’t take your eyes off the screen.  Much of that credit goes to the 2 leads.  Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are absolutely enchanting together.  They slip right back into their roles they played 9 years before.  They also co-wrote the screenplay with director Linklater, which is why the film feels so personal.  These actors haven’t been better than they are here.

Now, why isn’t this as perfect as BEFORE SUNRISE?  Well, this is all a matter of personal taste, so I could be on my own here.  Because of how romantic the last film was, I wish this had a little bit of that magic.  There a couple of glimpses here and there, but this is more realistic, which is fine.  But for being a romance, I was a little disappointed that they didn’t even kiss once.  But, maybe I’m being unfair because the film didn’t meet my expectations.  It was different from what I wanted.  I have a feeling that I will appreciate this more with repeat viewings.  In fact, I’m almost positive.  I do think the ending is sort of perfect though.  But I still wanted a kiss.  Just one.

If you enjoyed BEFORE SUNRISE, then you won’t want to miss this.  Depending on what type of person you are, you may or may not like this more than the first one.  But either way, you should enjoy it.  I sure did.  It was fascinating watching these 2 characters cross paths again.  The best thing about these 2 movies is that it gets you to think about your own life, and past loves.  You really can’t ask for more than that when it comes to the movies.  BEFORE SUNSET is a well crafted, beautifully acted, contemplative film about realistic love.  For me it wasn’t quite as good as SUNRISE, but I wouldn’t call it a disappointment.  I did love catching up with these characters again.  I can’t wait for the third one!   ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Rated R for language and sexual references.

– Running time: 1hr 20min.

(BEFORE SUNSET is available to rent on DVD from Netflix)


Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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