tek's rating: ¾

Before Sunset (R)
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This came out in 2004, but I didn't see it until 2015. It's a sequel to the 1995 movie Before Sunrise. It's the kind of the movie that I feel one might be able to appreciate even without having seen the first movie, but it's probably better if you did see that one before seeing this one. It's kind of hard for me to really be sure which movie I'd say is better... I rate the first one higher mainly because... I dunno, this is just sort of a retread, in a way, so it feels less original than the original (pun intended). But in another sense, this movie is... well, it's a fitting follow-up. The characters have lived some more (it's set 9 years later, so they're in their early 30s instead of their early 20s), and I guess they're kind of more mature. But Celine says something at one point about reading a journal she kept as a little girl, and thinking that the way she thought about life then was the same as she does now, and Jesse said that people don't really change. And I kind of feel the same way about this movie. Sure, they're more "adult" now, but they're obviously still the same people. But I get ahead of myself.

It begins with Jesse doing an interview at a bookstore in Paris. He'd written a best-selling book that was a fictionalized account of the day he and Celine had spent together nine years earlier. And Celine shows up at the store, so when his interview is over, he spends some time with her seeing a bit of Paris and just talking with her. There isn't as much time as in the first movie, because he has a flight to catch... or at least, he's supposed to be at the airport a few hours before the flight departs, but he factors that sitting around time into how much time he can afford to spend with Celine. Anyway... of course they talk about various things, like that day they spent together before, and the fact that they'd planned to meet up six months later, but didn't. And they talk about what's been happening in each of their lives since then. (While Jesse has obviously become a writer, Celine got a Master's Degree- I forget if she mentioned in what field- and started working for Green Cross.) And of course they talk about a bunch of random, philosophical stuff, just like in the first movie. Oh, and they have an argument about whether or not they'd had sex that one night. (Jesse said they had, Celine said they hadn't.) Which was a bit weird for me, because I thought it was fairly clear that they hadn't, and I liked that they hadn't. But I suppose the first movie left it somewhat ambiguous. (This movie removes the ambiguity, eventually, but I won't say who was right.) Well, the movie ends in Celine's apartment, where she sings him a song she'd written about that day together nine years ago. Which I thought was a nice bookend (they'd both created a work of art about the same thing), as well as being a really nice song. And that's all I want to say about the actual plot.

Anyway, a lot of critics (as well as casual viewers) might say this is a better movie than the original. And I wouldn't disagree, on a certain level. I mean, it's sort of more serious in that the characters are at a point in their lives where things actually matter more than they used to. But on another level, I think things just sort of matter in different ways, at different stages in a person's life. It's like... in the first movie, the drama and romance are more vibrant, and in a way the lack of real gravity is what allowed the movie to possess a magic than this movie doesn't have, at least not in quite the same way. This movie mostly feels sort of more subdued, except for the things Celine and Jesse said in the car ride to her apartment. There were hints (and not exactly subtle hints) of what they were really feeling prior to that scene, but that was when they were really honest. Not to say anything they said before was dishonest, but... it's then that it really becomes clear that bubbling just below the more "mature" surface of their ongoing conversation, the story we're watching this time around really is more dramatic than the first movie. So, you know... I'm not one to suggest that one phase of life is more real or important than another, but... I'd say that time, as a concept and a reality, plays a more vital role in this movie, in a number of ways. I think it's worth noting that this movie is about 20 minutes shorter than the original, which I see as possibly symbolic of the fact that Jesse and Celine have less time not only to spend together on this particular day, but less time left in life. And that leads to a sense of urgency that at once seems both less and more dramatic than it does when you're younger. (I may be overthinking it, but these are the kind of movies that put me in a philosophic mood, naturally.) My point is... the relative quality of each movie depends to some extent on what appeals to you more, magic or reality. I'm more a fan of magic, which is why I prefer the first movie, but I totally get the appeal of a more serious story. (Even if the format is terribly similar to the original.)

The movie is followed nine years later by Before Midnight.

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