Okay, film two picks up nine years after Before Sunrise. Jesse and Celine, as played by Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, meet in Paris. The appointment they made to meet again in six months in Vienna wasn’t kept and their lives have followed divergent paths. I found this film to really be much better than Before Sunrise. Really, all of the flaws of the first film have been corrected here and the things that were good about the first film have become even better. The writing is more nuanced and the film is darker, more pessimistic, as is natural. In the first film, we saw Jesse & Celine in their early twenties and they were still idealistic and filled with hope and belief in romance and destiny. Here, in their early thirties, they’ve lived through some hard times; Jesse is embroiled in a failing marriage and Celine has been unable to sustain a long-term relationship. They aren’t bitter exactly, but they’re certain regretful and occasionally cynical. So the conversation this time around is less cerebral and philosophical, though there is still the occasional philosophical detour. They’re talking this time more about how they feel and what they’ve lived through; there’s obviously more emotional resonance to that and the film is much more effecting than Before Sunrise. Of course, I’m thirty-two, the same age as Celine in this film, so it makes sense that I would feel more connection and resonance with the emotions, problems and struggles of the characters here than I did in Before Sunrise. And another thing of note is the fact that it’s really interesting to see how Hawke and Delpy have improved as actors. One rarely sees films like this, where you get to see two actors perform nine years apart in the space of just two evenings (I watched Before Sunrise on a Friday evening and Before Sunset on Saturday evening). But it’s really clear that, in the nine years between films, both of the actors have honed their craft. They were both quite good in Before Sunrise, but their performances here are light years better. Well, enough about this film; it’s a masterpiece in all the ways I was hoping Before Sunrise would be. Before Sunrise fell a bit short, but this one hits the mark dead center. And . . . no spoilers . . . at least not until my review of Before Midnight, but the ending here? Holy ****. That’s how you end a movie. Though I would have excised the last shot and ended instead on the next to last. But still, great ending. Anyway, great film. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – sequel to Before Sunrise improves on the first film, which was itself very good, in every way. Transfixing in the moment; memorable in the aftermath. A masterpiece. 4 stars.