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Warner Home Video presents
Before Sunset (2004)

"Memories are a good thing if you don't have to deal with the past."
- Celine (Julie Delpy)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: November 07, 2004

Stars: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater

MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual references
Run Time: 01h:20m:12s
Release Date: November 09, 2004
UPC: 085393896225
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AA-A- C-

DVD Review

In 1994, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) randomly met and ended up spending the day together in Vienna. Following a night of romance, they vowed to meet again in six months. The young couple made a definite connection, but was it love or just a quick fling? This day's events occurred in the enchanting Before Sunrise, which drew considerable acclaim but also left many viewers scratching their heads. While marketed as a typical romantic comedy, it transcended the genre and simply allowed its characters to talk about a range of issues. Its finale was open-ended, which left hope for love but also retained the possibility Celine and Jesse would never meet again. Nine years later, Jesse has written a novel about the experience, which leads him to Paris during a book tour. Would Celine make an appearance? The answer is obvious.

Before Sunset chronicles a second meeting of two intriguing characters who have grown well beyond their youthful idealism of the past. Filmed in long takes at coffee shops, quaint gardens, and various Paris streets, Celine and Jesse once again discuss life and its difficulties. Their discussion begins with generalities, as both seem reluctant to reveal too much at once. They continue to share a strong connection, but the baggage of daily life has generated obstacles between them. Jesse's return flight to America occurs in a few hours, and their time is short. Will he leave again?

Directed with wonderful subtlety by Richard Linklater (Waking Life, Dazed and Confused), this charming picture surpasses its predecessor considerably and provides a more adult, yet still energetic story. The camera remains in the background as the actors recite extremely long strands of dialogue in a naturalistic fashion. Their muted demeanor and the lack of overly stylistic direction enhances the feeling that we are watching two people talking, not a film script. Hawke and Delpy wrote much of the dialogue, which helped to bring their own personal experiences into Celine and Jesse's life.

Running a quick 80 minutes and occurring nearly in real-time, this tale leaves you both satisfied and intrigued about the couple's future. Do they have an actual chance at happiness? One of them is married with a son, and the other is involved in a relationship. It's difficult for Jesse and Celine to understand what happened nine years ago, but it still haunts them today. Their interaction lacks the typical kisses and hugs of romantic comedies, but the connection is very strong. During one poignant moment, Celine reaches over to touch him, but quickly draws her hand away before it's noticed. This moment reveals the guarded nature that makes their love difficult, but also the longing that still exists between them.

Before Sunset provides only two roles and no major action scenes, but it remains invigorating and grows more compelling with each passing minute. Linklater is a master at depicting figures who are both interesting and real, and he succeeds greatly with this low-budget project. Hawke and Delpy deliver touching performances that outshine their original work and reveal even more depth within Jesse and Celine. Will Jesse make his plane? The ultimate answer is less important than the journey and interaction between two remarkable characters.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Although it includes fewer scenic moments than its predecessor, Before Sunset still utilizes some nice visual scenes. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the streets of Paris impressively and includes few significant defects. It falls a bit short of being amazing, but still provides an enjoyable viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: This film is composed mostly of lengthy conversations between the two lead characters, so the need for an extensive audio transfer is less than many releases. However, the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track still presents the dialogue and background noises nicely. The words are easily understandable, and the solid clarity level leads to an effective presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, and Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Criminal, A Home at the End of the World, We Don't Live Here Anymore
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: In similar fashion to the Before Sunrise DVD, this release is virtually devoid of significant extras. Its lone notable supplement is a 10-minute featurette of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Hawke, Delpy, and Linklater provide an overview of the production and do give offer worthwhile statements. Unfortunately, this film would have benefited considerably with a commentary track from the two stars and director. Following its predecessors bare-bones disc, it is nice to get something, but it still falls well short of expectations. The lone additional items are the theatrical trailer (presented in 1.85:1 widescreen) and three previews for other films placed before the main menu.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Before Sunset should charm viewers who favor ideas and clever dialogue over the typical romantic comedy formula. Audiences who hated its predecessor will probably dislike this one, but I hope they'll at least give the story a chance. Its enjoyment stays with you for a long time and leads to numerous repeated viewings.


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