This unexpectedly enjoyable indie sequel to the indie hit "Before Sunrise" follows original stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for 80 minutes following a meeting in Paris several years after their original meeting.
What follows is a unique, well-acted and effortlessly enjoyable film in which director Richard Linklater basically follows the actors as they converse about life, their first meeting, relationships and the future in real time. We don't have breakaway shots here...we don't have several days of shooting. We basically have a conversation between two very real people having a very real conversation with obvious, authentic feeling. It's an utter joy to watch.
I am not a fan of Ethan Hawke...I generally find his approach to acting lazy and smarmy. Here, however, Hawke is relaxed and enjoyable as Jesse. Hawke gives his character a unique balance of confidence and humility that is seldom captured in a romantic film. It's a subdued, quietly brilliant performance.
The enchanting Julie Delpy also provides great depth to what could have been a rather boring role. Delpy's facial expressions and vocal expressions are simply endearing and hypnotic. Like Hawke, it's a subdued, yet slightly more energetic performance.
Other roles are inconsequential here, but the French setting adds significantly to the beauty of the film. The everyday, "street" beauty of Paris is beautifully captured by Linklater.
I love films like this one...in fact, it accomplishes much of what I wish "The Polar Express" had done. It takes a simple story and makes a simple film of it. This film is devoid of offensive material, beyond a few basic sexual conversations that are far from offensive. Absurdly, it received an "R" rating. It doesn't serve it. "Before Sunset" explores the relationship between two people in honest, authentic ways that defy cinematic presentation yet Linklater has done a wonderful job of capturing it on film through a simple script, honest dialogue and very basic approach to cinematography.
This film begs to be an "A" range film, yet for an "indie" film with a $10 million budget I found myself noticing more than once technical flubs. For example, at least a couple times I noticed boom mikes in the background. While the spontaneous camera work may open the door to this happening, I would think that with a $10 million budget at least a moderate editing job would have solved the problem. Additionally, I found myself a tad disappointed with an ending that seemed as unresolved as the beginning. Were they, perhaps, thinking that we needed another sequel to this film? I think not. Anyone who had invested in these characters on any emotional level deserved a better resolution.
So, I am left with a beautiful, romantic film with outstanding performances by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. "Before Sunset" is a joy to behold and a wonderful way to spend some time cuddled up on the couch with someone you love.