Sunday, January 27, 2013

Before Sunset (2004)


*** WARNING: This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS!!! ***

In my own cynical mind, I imagined that neither Jesse nor Celine showed up in Vienna six months later. I figured both would look upon their magical night in Vienna as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they would try to re-integrate into the real world as best they could, though both would remain haunted by the memory of the other, and they would never truly get over each other. I guess I was more or less correct, except I hadn't thought much about how either person would have changed over the nine years that had passed, and I have to admit, I was kind of disappointed.

Nine years earlier, neither Jesse nor Celine were smokers, though at that time, they were in their early 20's, when most people who ever smoke seem to go through their smoking phase. The fact that they became smokers later in life seemed to put them in a less than flattering light, for me. Rather than being young and full of idealism, they now seemed like pretentious, aging adults who wanted to hold on to their youth by talking philosophy in between drags on a cigarette in a Paris cafe.

I also found Celine to be overly pre-occupied with sex. This strange twist on her personality was especially confusing in light of her bizarre show of pretending to forget that she and Jesse had slept together nine years ago. I just didn't get it.

After finding out that Jesse was actually married with a kid, I was surprised that I wasn't as bothered as I thought I would be. I did find myself thinking about his poor wife at home, caring for their 4-year-old son, but Jesse painted such a sad picture of their loveless marriage that I started to feel sympathy for him, figuring that, given the marriage counseling that he said they had tried, surely his wife must be as lonely in the relationship as he was.

Like Before Sunrise, the beauty of this movie lies in the extended scenes of back and forth dialogue between Jesse and Celine. Though maybe there was a profound insight or two - Ken said he knew just what Celine was talking about when she described how being cut off from the rest of the world can be a freeing experience - for the most part, I found the conversations less interesting than in Before Sunrise.

Once again, the ending is intentionally left ambiguous. But, I didn't get that same sense of hope that I had at the end of Before Sunrise. Instead, I saw two sad people who seemed to have wasted so much of their life holding on to a dream of "what could have been", and now that they have the chance, given the place each of them is in his / her life, they just want to make sure they don't have any more regrets. My guess: Jesse misses his flight, he spends the night with Celine, and upon returning home, he asks his wife for a divorce. He and Celine become committed to giving their relationship a try, but it's not clear that the relationship will work out. My only hope is that Celine moves to the Unites States, rather than Jesse moving to Paris, so that Jesse can still be a regular part of his son's life. I'd hate to think he ditches his son.

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