Separated lovers meet 10 years laterIn Richard Linklater’s 1995 film “Before Sunrise,” a young American man, Jesse (Ethan Hawke), and a young French woman, Celine (Julie Delpy), meet on a train in Europe. They spend the day together in Vienna and fall in love. They don’t exchange numbers or addresses, in fear that their passion will dissipate. Instead, they part ways, with the understanding that they will rendezvous on the train platform half a year later.
The film ended on that ambigious note, with both lovers pensive as they mulled over what were already memories, yet bright-eyed over the promise of what could be a wonderful love.
Did they keep that promise?
“Before Sunset,” set almost 10 years later, answers that question, while raising other ones. Superficially, the two are perfectly happy. Jesse is a successful, married novelist. Celine has a job that actually means something. But Jesse wrote his novel based on the one day he had with Celine, in the hopes that the book would be a siren calling her to him again. Celine has settled for a pseudo-relationship with a photojournalist who’s never home.
Jesse goes on a book tour that ends in Paris, and, lo and behold, Celine does come to the bookstore where he is speaking. The two walk the city, once again opening up to each other.
At first, the questions come hesistantly. Were you at the train platform? What do you do now? Do I look the same? Jesse is physically leaner. Celine’s skin is translucent. Both are still beautiful on the outside, with universes of disappointment on the inside. During long camera takes, the two mostly just talk. They have 60 minutes until Jesse has to leave to catch his flight back home.
Linklater, Hawke and Delpy co-wrote the script, which touches on politics, work and all sorts of hurts experienced in all sorts of relationships. Both Jesse and Celine are older, and, one would hope, wiser. But wisdom comes after disappointment, fear of hoping, resignation and a touch of cynicism.
The young Celine poured all her hopes into Jesse, and has nothing left to give anyone else. Jesse thought of Celine the day he got married. These stories come streaming out once they let down their guard. It quickly becomes apparent they long for something more than the lives they currently have.
And so “Before Sunset” becomes a magical, sad snapshot of two adults gravitating toward each other. The two have made decisions based on having had each other once, then having lost each other. Years later, do they even have a future together? Would life have been different if they’d met on the platform, or would that romance have fizzled, like all their romances since?
If you haven’t seen “Before Sunrise,” see it before watching “Before Sunset” if you want to appreciate all its subtleties. The brash characters from the first movie ― the scruffy American and the passionate, idealistic French woman ― have developed into adults who may be more tempered, but have the memory of youth and hope. And while you might not buy into everything the characters say, there’s something luminous about the way they are around each other.
Drama, Romance / English
by Joe Yonghee