Double Review: Before Sunrise & Before Sunset

Before Sunrise

Before SunriseJesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have a chance encounter on a train. An instant connection between the two, they both get off the train in Vienna and spend the night getting to know each other knowing that they must part company the following day.

Before Sunrise does sound a little generic but its strength is in its simplicity. Both Ethan and Jesse feel like real people upon whose world we happen to have stumbled upon. Sure, it’s a romantic film but it never feels gratuitous in its fromage; instead we just have two young people who genuinely seem to have a connection and are exploring that in the little time they have together. It’s a situation that is likely to ring true with many, which is another one of its real strengths. So many love stories, whilst undeniably soppy, aren’t all that realistic, whereas Before Sunrise feels like a genuine snapshot of these characters’ lives (it was based on a real encounter director Richard Linklater had with a woman he met in Philadelphia) and that we’re eavesdropping on the start of an actual relationship.

However, whilst the situation itself is one that feels real, some of the dialogue comes across as somewhat forced and a little unbelievable. Ethan quoting W.H. Auden, a street poet writing the world’s most pretentious piece of poetry, and conversations about reincarnation and spirituality just don’t feel in keeping with the film’s naturalistic approach. This isn’t always the case, but when it does happen, it’s a little jarring.

Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy carry their roles superbly and there’s real chemistry between the two, although it’s slightly mystifying as to why, when their encounter comes to an end, they can’t communicate via phone or mail at all. Maybe I missed that part. However, whether you’re a fan of romantic films or not, Before Sunrise is a film that almost everyone will be able to relate to in some way, which is something not many films manage to achieve.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

Before Sunset

Nine years after their night in Vienna, Jesse has written a book about the experience and is promoting it in a bookshop in Paris. When Celine turns up out of the blue, they spend the afternoon together catching up and reminiscing, but with Jesse married with children and Celine also in a relationship, they wonder what could have been.

It would have been easy to make this sequel based six months after Before Sunrise when the two arrange to meet. However, Before Sunset leaves that night in Vienna as an isolated incident, which helps to firmly distinguish the two films and give them a tone that is similar but very much their own.

Both Hawke and Delpy are on top form from the off once again, perfectly capturing the awkwardness that can arise having not seen someone for a long period of time and wondering what on Earth to talk about. They slowly slip back into familiarity and they become much more comfortable around one another once more. There is still real chemistry between the two and it’s clear that that one night had a huge impact on both their lives.

One of the few issues with Before Sunset is a similar issue that cropped up with the first film – the slightly pompous nature of some of the conversations. These two people who have not seen each other in nine years could be talking about their lives and what they’ve been doing, and there is a part of that, but instead there are philosophical and ethical discussions that just don’t feel all that natural. However, this problem is more prevalent in the first portion of the film and later conversations appear much more genuine and consequently carry more emotional weight. Celine’s near breakdown in the back of a car is a particular highlight.

Without the need for an initial meeting like the first film, Before Sunset trims a good chunk off its running time. However, this makes it a much more succinct package and more closely resembles time as it passes in the film. Before Sunrise could have easily existed on its own without the need for this sequel, but Before Sunset does a fine job of taking us back into these characters’ lives and letting us in on the next chapter in their story.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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54 thoughts on “Double Review: Before Sunrise & Before Sunset

  1. Both classics of their genre. I can’t wait for Before Midnight.

  2. vinnieh says:

    Great reviews, makes me want to watch them both again.

  3. filmhipster says:

    I watched both of these film just recently and they both just blew me away. The dialogue between these two was so fascinating. This is Hawke at his finest.

  4. I have been of Hawke for a long time. I think he’s underrated. I am glad you gave positive reviews..I shall put them on the list to view! Great!

    • I definitely recommend these Cindy. If you’re a fan of Hawke then I think you’ll really be blown away. The third in the trilogy, Before Midnight, is out this summer so now would be a good time to check them out.

  5. mettelray says:

    I need to watch these! I feel like I would like them but I seem to be lacking the mood for romance. But as I’ve heard a lot of good things about both movies over the past few months (due to the third one coming out soon I presume), I think I’ll give them a go soon. Nice reviews! 🙂

  6. Ive never seen either of these, and people hammer me for it. LOL. I have one of them coming down the road in the readers recommendations series though. So, I look forward to at least finally getting that off of my back LOL 😀

    • Haha, I was the same Fogs. I hadn’t seen either of them and was just hearing loads of people going on about how amazing they were so I figured I should probably see what all the fuss was about. Looking forward to reading that RR! 🙂

  7. Great reviews. And nice to know that guys are allowed to like them too! I love the fact that I’ve been the same sort of age as the characters so I feel as if I’ve really grown up with them. Please let Midnight be good!

    • Guys can definitely like these! There’s something very alluring about Julie Delpy! I really hope Midnight is good too. The trailer has me slightly concerned but initial reviews have been pretty positive, so I’m still very much looking forward to it.

  8. CMrok93 says:

    Nice reviews. I love both films, but the second one always comes to mind the most. It’s so short, so straight-forward, and so emotional, that almost every line of dialogue Jesse and Celine share with one another, you are constantly gripping your insides. Seeing the third one today, let’s hope it’s as much of a keeper as these two.

  9. Dan Heaton says:

    Chris, it’s always great to see coverage of these great two films. While I understand what you’re saying about the conversations being “pompous”, I tend to forgive it because I just loving spending time with these characters. I wish more movie characters spoke about such heavy issues! I’d always considered the sequel to be superior, but after seeing Before Sunrise again last fall, I’m not entirely sure. Both are amazing in their own way and definitely worth spotlighting. Nice job.

    • Thanks very much Dan. I think the writing is brilliant but I do feel, particularly with the first film, that it’s slightly unbelievable at times, which does jar with me a little, but it’s a relatively minor criticism to be honest. I couldn’t separate them as to which was my favourite, hence the same score for both. Both films had standout moments for me and I’m eagerly anticipating the next one!

  10. claratsi says:

    never seen any of these, why!? I dunno…think the time has come 😉 nice review as always buddy!

  11. Garrett says:

    I haven’t seen these, but I definitely should before the new one comes out. Nice double review.

  12. sati says:

    Both are such great movies. I like Before Sunset a bit better, I’m worried that the new film may destroy the perfect ending to this one.

    • I really can’t decide which I like more. I’m leaning ever so slightly to Sunrise but Sunset also has its brilliant moments. I really hope the new film doesn’t go all Judd Apatow on us as the trailer does slightly suggest it may do.

  13. ruth says:

    Great double reviews Chris, interesting that you like both equally. I still need to see Before Sunset before the new one comes out. I quite like the setting for this where the romance is more emotional instead of mere physical. Pretty rare to see in the movies these days.

    • Thanks Ruth! 🙂 It is very rare to see that kind of thing in films nowadays, I think that’s what helps make these stand out. The characters seem to connect on such a deep level that it goes way beyond your usual girl meets guy storyline. I think a lot of people have had some sort of experience similar to this, and that helps people identify with it. I found it really difficult to separate them, both of them had moments that I loved.

      • ruth says:

        Y’know, for about a year my hubby and I were good friends and we’d talk for hours at a time and I just so enjoyed his company. I was dating someone else at the time where I never felt the connection I had with him that obviously went more than just physical. Suffice to say, we ended up being husband & wife later on 😀 Of course the setting isn’t as glamorous as where Jesse & Celine met, but I definitely identified w/ their relationship.

      • And that’s precisely why these films are so great! 😀 It definitely sounds like a similar story, so you must really see yourselves in the characters. I love it when you find films that are really personal to you and go beyond just being a good film with good acting or whatever.

  14. ckckred says:

    I have sadly seen neither of these pictures. I will have to check them out before Before Midnight debuts.

  15. Zoë says:

    Highly embarrassed to admit this, but I have seen neither of these. I will definitely have a look see, the general consensus being that they were so brilliant! Lovely reviews!

  16. Mike says:

    Great Review – I watched these a few months ago and watched them back to back in the same evening. I just thought they were great, right from the start I liked both characters, the dialogue never felt forced and seemed quite natural. The film’s flowed nicely and I never got bored with them; they were just captivating films and now I am really looking forward to the final one.

    • Thanks Mike! They really were captivating and I was really absorbed in the film. I felt like I was watching two real people, and I think that’s the films’ biggest strength. I thought the dialogue was very naturally delivered but I did sometimes find it hard to buy into what it was they were talking about.

  17. elena says:

    Ingenious review – and definitely sparked my interest. Adding to the watching list… now. Thanks for bringing these to me! Hawke is awesome and I always like watching him in films.

  18. Love these movies, and glad to hear you enjoyed them as well! I can’t wait for Before Midnight, which from the sounds of it may even be the best one yet.

  19. Tyson Carter says:

    Not my kind of thing really, but excellent write up as always Chris 🙂

  20. Popcorn Nights says:

    Nice reviews Chris…I’m sorry though, but there’s just something about Before Sunrise I don’t like. I think I’m the only person in the world that dislikes it and I found Ethan Hawke’s mid-90s gen-x stereotype character really annoying in that one. Less so in Sunset. Can’t say I’ll be racing to the cinema to see the third one, but I’ll probably watch it at some point.
    Have you seen In Search of a Midnight Kiss? I thought that was a much better variation on the boy-meets-girl theme. But (*backs out of the door quietly*) no-one agrees!

    • Thanks man. Despite the almost universal praise these get, I can actually get why someone wouldn’t like them. I thought they were great and pretty unlike anything I’d seen but they weren’t perfect and I did have some issues with them.
      I haven’t seen that film, no, but I’ll make a note and personally hold you responsible if it’s rubbish 😉

  21. Mark Walker says:

    Nice one Chris. I’m a big fan of these film’s and totally agree on your ratings here.
    All set for Before Midnight now?

  22. Nostra says:

    I gave the whole trilogy perfect scores…love them and I guess that makes it my favorite trilogy.

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