A review of “Before Sunset” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language, adult suggestion

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes



It’s been nine long years since a pair of journeying strangers met on a Eurail train to Vienna, expressing an undying attraction and a promise to meet again six months later. 

Richard Linklater’s 1995 Before Sunrise featured fresh young stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, and marked Linklater as a director to watch. Linklater is still churning out edgy, word-saturated originals (Tape, School of Rock); the time is right to reunite his star-crossed lovers and fulfill that bygone pledge.  

Jesse (Hawke) is on the last stop of his book tour, reading from his novel in a small Paris book shop when he spots Celine (Delpy) at the back of the room. The two embark on a walking tour of the City of Lights, hoping to rekindle the connection that bound them nearly a decade ago.

Their conversation is complex and intense, ranging from politics to the pure meaning of love and how their worlds have changed.  Stripped of their young idealism, the pair ruminates on the cynicism of romance; and by the way, did you ever show up at the designated meeting place?

Missed opportunities rear their ugly little heads.  It appears that Jesse and Celine’s paths nearly crossed on several occasions and two different continents.  Perhaps their stars were not properly aligned?

Filmed in real time, Sunset is eighty minutes of delicious colloquy and sparkling chemistry. Jesse may be living the pretense of a marriage. Celine seems numb to her erstwhile lively activism.  As the minutes tick by, so do the confessions, building to a do-they-or-don’t-they crescendo.

 Linklater peppers his narrative with delectable pearls of wisdom (“Memory’s a wonderful thing if you don’t have to deal with the past”) and excessive feeling for his players’ psyches.  Occasionally self-conscious but extremely effective, Sunset is a love story for the adult who dares to dream.