Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) met nine years ago on a train in Austria, spent the day together in Vienna, and parted ways, promising to meet in Vienna in six months. That much you know if you saw “Before Sunrise” (1995), which I did not. What you did not know is that the planned re-encounter never happened, and this beautiful young couple — who never learned each other’s last names or contact information — never saw each other again.
Until “Before Sunset,” that is, when Jesse is in Paris on a book tour and Celine is wandering through bookshops. Jesse has written a semi-fictional story about two young people who fall in love one magical evening in Vienna — proof that he never forgot Celine. That he should meet her again now seems pre-destined. Alas, he must catch a plane back to the States in a couple hours. All he can do is walk and talk with Celine through the streets of Paris in the time he has.
The film, again written and directed by Richard Linklater (with the stars getting co-writer credits), unfolds in real time for 80 minutes as Celine and Jesse re-connect and rekindle their affection for each other. They do almost nothing but talk, filling one another in on what’s happened over the past nine years, and expounding on some of the interesting philosophical ideas Linklater is famous for. It’s interesting conversation even for disinterested bystanders like ourselves.
Hawke’s voice has a whine to it that I’ve never liked, and his character says “I’m just kidding” too often in the film. Apart from that, Jesse and Celine are perfectly likable, sympathetic people, and seeing them begin to fall in love as if spying on them — the camerawork is unobtrusive and observant — is a reasonably satisfying experience.
B (1 hr., 20 min.; )