It’s the sequel to a much loved film Becky and I saw years ago at the same festival – Before Sunrise. That film was one of those small pictures that stick in the mind, an extended riff on the joys of youth and romantic love. Two strangers, Céline, a French student, and Jesse, an American boy aimlessly wandering Europe, meet on a train between Budapest and Vienna. On the spur of the moment they decide to alight at Vienna and stay together until Jesse catches a flight back to America early the next morning. They spend an intense and romantic night mostly talking about not much as they wander together around Vienna’s backdrop. In the morning as they part they vow to meet again in six months time.
It probably helped that the characters were almost our exact contemporaries in age and (in part) outlook. And watching that film again now (as we did last weekend), I’m struck at how young and dumb they are, as if seen through a lens of nine years of acquired cynicism. But then I feel a bit that way about myself a decade removed, too.
But no matter. Before Sunset flashes forward to the present. The pair run across each other in Paris: more lined, wiser in some ways and a little touched with bitter regrets. In other words, they’ve grown older. But the spark seen on that night in Vienna is still glowing, and the audience is glad for it. Questions are answered for them and us: did they meet again; what was the effect of that night on their lives; what will happen now?
Well, perhaps you have to have some kind of romantic attachment to the earlier film to find this one great. We do and did. It was warm and funny and beautiful and I want to see it again. Before Sunset is an (alternative) feel-good film, and luckily without even the slightest danger of hyperglycæmia.