Before Sunset ★★★★½

"Our lives might have been so much different."

Before Sunrise left such a strong impression in my mind that it blurred my recall of this film, the second of Linklater's trilogy, almost entirely. I remembered how this chapter unfolded, more or less, but the resonant conversations don't crystallize in my mind as the first film did.

As Jesse and Celine stroll and recount the missing decade of their love life, there is less of an urgency and youthful vitality in their conversations, and ultimately that means less memorable exchanges. But to discount the film for lack of memorable moments would do a disservice to the impact of the film's ideas. These aren't the same people we met in Vienna, they have become older, more experienced, and to some degree jaded versions of themselves. And that makes the decisions they make and the realizations that occur as the film unravels all the more impactful. It's challenging material they discuss, and it's covered in the same completely natural manner as in Sunrise. It's nuance over elaboration. It's subtlety over saturation.

It's a beautiful film, and the level of quality all around have certainly improved to some degree since 9 years ago. Hawke and Delpy still seem very much at one with their characters, effortlessly slipping into their respective roles and truly evoking notions of frustration and longing, but also at times a counterpoint sense of surrender - both to the lives they've lived and the decisions they've made. You truly do get a sense of two characters at odds with their choices, which ultimately makes the conclusion all the more rewarding.