Released: July 2
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
Like a fresh breeze cutting through the stale commercial air, “Before Sunset” exemplifies what a genuinely independent American movie about engaging and complex adults can actually look, sound and feel like.
While Quentin Tarantino has long talked (and talked at length) about revisiting his characters years later, writer-director Richard Linklater simply did it. The seeming ease and unmistakable depth that has gone into bringing up to date the young twentysomething characters that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy first created (and co-wrote, along with Linklater and Kim Krizan) in 1995’s “Before Sunrise” are part of what makes “Before Sunset” a work of uncommon grace, intelligence and unforced intimacy.
Winning the runner-up Silver Bear at the Berlin fest in February set the film up as an object of critical desire, and even though it preemed in early July, the film could overcome the less traditional release slot by virtue of being one of the year’s best-reviewed films.
Linklater’s widely popular “The School of Rock” was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences last year, and there may be a desire to make amends. Hawke’s supporting actor nom for “Training Day” has positioned the actor as a serious thesp who, like “Before Sunset’s” Jesse, has matured into someone interesting to watch. Delpy’s return to the screen after a lengthy absence is its own compelling storyline. The fact that she sings songs she composed herself can only help.
The film reverses several equations that seem to dominate American moviemaking — so much so that Oscar voters may either consider “Sunset” too distinct and individual to quantify, or so notable that it shouldn’t be ignored.
The acting branch (the Acad’s largest) might warm to what Linklater, Hawke and Delpy accomplished in their extensive, single-shot dialogues as the former lovers review their youth and catch up with their present while ambling through Parisian streets.
While Acad writers may debate who wrote what (each actor informed their characters’ backstories and current situations), the essentially plotless script is a marvel of casual character revelation building to unexpected emotional heights and a perfectly calibrated final scene.
Linklater’s direction never announces itself, becoming invisibly one with his characters — uniting a sense of fully formed adulthood in one’s thirties that younger Acad voters can relate to with a unity of form and content that older voters with memories of classical Hollywood should adore.