Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy|
|Producer:||Richard Linklater, Anne Walker-McBay|
|Distributor:||Warner Independent Pictures|
“What if you had a second chance with the one that got away?”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Nine years ago, two strangers met by chance, spent a night together in Vienna, and parted before sunrise. Now, they’re about to cross paths again—in Paris—where they will get the chance we all wish we had . to find out what might have been. The only problem is they have just a few hours to figure out if they belong together. Directed by Richard Linklater (“Waking Life,” “Before Sunrise”), the film reunites Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.”
The idea of a setting sun can represent more than the ending of a day, and be seen as a metaphor for the ending of our lives. Like “Before Sunrise,” this sequel “Before Sunset” is a romance that bathes in the idea that what everyone ultimately wants out of life before they die is love. This film seems to be uplifting in this way, but also dispenses a lot of worldly philosophizing that more often than not reduces love to physical urges and idealized fantasies.
After nine years apart and no contact after their initial fling in Vienna, Celine (Julie Delpy) pays Jessie Wallace (Ethan Hawke) a surprise visit at her favorite Parisian bookstore where he is appearing for a question and answer session for the release of his new book. Limited by time, but not feelings, Jessie and Celine immediately reconnect to spend as much time together as possible before he must leave for his flight back to the U.S.
Walking to a café, taking a boat ride, riding in a car, and sitting in her apartment, these two rekindle their infatuation as they talk, talk, talk themselves back into each other’s lives. Feeling that they once had something special, this story ends with them picking up where they left off with their first romance.
The main conduit for this “talking picture show” is the dialogue—not pictures, not music, not plot. From beginning to end, these two inseparable people never stop talking. Their conversations cover a wide range of topics, including their relationship, politics, religion and sex. Fortunately, most of the material is well written, and these two actors are able to pull off the performance. What also helps this piece not be “talking heads” only is the fact that the camera itself is almost constantly in motion. The best shot is when it follows them from the front as they walk up the spiral staircase to her apartment. Coincidentally, this moment is also mostly silent.
The specifics of the dialogue are pretty candid, and include a lot of talk about sex. There are also profane words used, including the “f” word on several occasions. Celine also mentions other men she has slept with, and they jokingly call her derogatory names. These two discuss their first romance and how they had sex, too, and some of the specifics of it as well. There are also a few objectionable words used about physical urges and the female anatomy. The abundance of talk about this subject seems to lead up to what one can interpret happening at the end.
Seeing how broad their discussions are, there was also a few moments where they talked about God. After an interesting story about Celine’s refreshing time in Warsaw (away from advertising, shopping, etc.), Jessie discusses how he spent some time with monks. He was first surprised that they weren’t as stern as he expected them to be, and admired how they lived with peace they had made with God. (He quickly qualifies the idea of God, though, by saying “or whatever they found in themselves that was eternal.”) Celine, however, straightforwardly admits that she does not believe in God. When Jessie asks her if she does, she immediately says no, but then says she does believe in astrology because she and Jessie’s signs are compatible.
The most difficult part to grapple with is the fact that Jessie is now married with a child. He confesses to Celine how bad his marriage is and that he married for the wrong reasons. He says he is in it because he is committed, but the entire time he is with Celine, it is clear he just wants to get back together with her. The whole story is emphasizing their infatuation and encourages us to hope they get back together. It seems being with each other is what they both really want, and while I want to see a story about true love, it was unreasonable to root for their relationship to succeed.
During a walk through the park, Celine gives Jessie a moral dilemma to reason out. She asks that if he were to die that very night, what would he have their conversation be about and what would he do. Jesse eventually boils it down to having sex—specifically with her. The point here and for the whole story seems to be that love is the highest and best thing we can attain to in life, but it also seems to relegate it intercourse. Truly, God is love (1 John 4:8) and, highlighting Jesse’s previous point about the monks, it seems the best thing for him would be to know that he has made peace with God before he dies.
Delpy and Hawke seem to have a pretty good chemistry together, but some of the time their relationship felt a little contrived. Seeing Hawke in another dialogue driven movie, “Tape,” I know he can make a piece like this work beautifully, but with this he didn’t seem as sincere.
Director Richard Linklater’s is brave to make a film like this, and the approach is noteworthy. It is a nice break from typical overly produced movies. But even though it is a kind of love story, it was hard to get into it and befriend what felt like a lot of worldliness.
- Read stories about the results of adultery and promiscuity—GO
- What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
- What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
- Are we living in a moral Stone Age? Answer
(Many young people not only have trouble distinguishing right from wrong—they question whether such standards even exist.)