Before Sunset (DVD) is one of the first gifts that Steve gave to me. And iit’s one of my favourite films ever. I saw Before Sunset the first time in 2004, when it first came out and I was living in Scotland. This was a time when I was feeling very unhappy in love and had in fact grown jaded and cynical about the possibility of having love in my life. You know, romantic love with a partner.
Before Sunset is a sweet, poignant, magical film about two people who meet up in Paris. But not for the first time. As the story unfolds, we learn that Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) had met nine years earlier. Even though they spent less then 24 hours together, for each of them, nothing since in their lives has matched the connection they shared in their brief encounter. Indeed when they parted, they planned to meet again in six months, but life and circumstance intervened and here they are in Paris, nine years later.
Not only is the story fantastic (screenplay co -written by director Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) but the acting is superb. The film takes place essentially in real time, i.e. the time elapsed in the story is also the run time of the film. In the brief time they have together, Celine and Jessie talk without cease, wildly making up for lost time. They discuss their careers, their love lives, their youthful idealism, their adult lack of hope, the state of the world, and the painfully persistent question: what if? Jesse and Celine fluidly move through the city, walking cobblestone streets, sitting in a typical Parisian café, passing through a lovely garden, and wandering down to the banks of the Seine, where they ride a tourist boat, Notre Dame luminous in the backdrop. The conversation never stops, but the talk is never dull.
This film is a “romance for realists” that avoids the “love at first sight, kissing in the rain, breaking up and making up” cliches. It is also both a romance and a film about the idea of romance. It could be seen as celebrating the romantic ideal – Jesse and Celine might be each other’s soul-mates and true loves – but equally, it could be seen as a film about two unhappy people running away from reality. The lovely way that Before Sunset ends, is that we are left on the threshold of two lives brought back together and who knows what will happen next?
The tagline for this film is ‘What if you had a second chance with the one that got away?’. I don’t believe that there is only one soulmate in the world for me and there is one chance in a million that we may meet. But I have yearned for a certain quality of intimate relationship and realised that there is a very small pool of potential mates who would be compatible with me. Deep down below my cynicism, I still nurtured the hope that one day I would meet a man with whom I could connect on a soul level.
Well, when I saw Before Sunset five years ago, my deep yearning re-awakened. I left the cinema in tears, not only because I found the story deeply moving, but I felt so bereft that I hadn’t even had a first chance with The One. When I met Steve, I was able to take the risk and open my heart and make the connection, because I realised that when I had waited so long for the first chance, I didn’t want it to slip away.