Before Sunset is beautiful. The sequel no one needed is a surprise pleasure: witty, heartfelt, and true. Nine years after Before Sunrise and the Vienna-set, 24-hour romance they promised to rekindle six months later, American writer Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and student-turned-activist Celine (Julie Delpy) are reunited in Paris. He has a little time to spare before flying back to the States, so they amble around town discussing politics, desire, and what might have been...
This sounds slight, but the story of these characters is compelling: how they've changed, the sadness, and lessons life has given them. The original irritated and enthralled viewers in equal measure - you didn't need to be a cynic to find its naval-gazing grating. But in allowing the characters to grow up, director Richard Linklater (who co-scripted with Hawke and Delpy) has made the first film more impressive. Whether you like them or not, catching up with Jesse and Celine makes you realise how much you care about these people.
"AS GRIPPING AS ANY BLOCKBUSTER"
There are recognisable, painful truths as they recount their lives - their losses and damaged dreams. Delpy can, very occasionally, be caught acting, but Hawke is seamlessly superb, particularly in his raw, taxi ride account of a tattered relationship. To tell too much would be to spoil the small twists and reveals of their conversation, which is as emotionally gripping as any blockbuster. It also has a sly sense of humour, gently mocking itself when in danger of being pretentious or precious. A touching picture of love and hope. Catch the sunset.