July 12, 2004 12:00 PM

Ethan Hawke. Julie Delpy


Intelligent conversation and lovely scenery go a long way in a movie. There are generous helpings of both in this terrific drama, as former lovers Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) stroll through a sunny Paris while catching up and reflecting on where their lives have taken them in the nine years since they parted.

Before Sunset is a savory sequel to 1995’s Before Sunrise. In the earlier film Jesse, a young American bumming through Europe, shared a single, long night of conversation and passion in Vienna with Celine, a French student. In Sunset, the two reunite nine years later when Celine shows up at a Paris bookstore where Jesse, now a successful novelist, is doing a book signing. He has a wife and child back in New York City and Celine has a steady boyfriend, but as they walk and talk, it’s clear an old flame still burns.

What strikes one most about Sunset, cowritten by director Richard Linklater, Hawke and Delpy (see p. 130), is how natural–and incisive–the dialogue sounds. “As you get older, you realize that there are fewer people you actually connect with,” Jesse says. He also confesses that the passion has gone out of his marriage, leaving him sometimes feeling as if he and his spouse simply run a daycare center together. Hawke, his face considerably more gaunt and lined than in Sunrise, is playful, soulful, and hints at being a bit of a bounder. It’s a high-wire act, but one he pulls off with style. Delpy, in a less complicated role, proves a charming foil.


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