In our Asian society, fate is not something to be trivialised. My mother, modern in some ways and yet traditionally Chinese in others, has always spoken about the passageways of life and how some things have been mapped out even before your creation. I do believe in fate, although I am not quite sure if it’s due to my upbringing or because it’s my choice to romanticise life.
I had meant to catch Before Sunset last weekend. Unfortunately, the theatre was fully booked and the boyfriend and I watched another show instead. Coincidentally, I managed to pick up a VCD of the preceding Before Sunrise at HMV that very day, after a fruitless search of almost six months. That gave me a chance to watch the sequel with a full understanding of the events before.
Against the ageless charm of the backdrop of Paris, Before Sunset unfolded beautifully in front of my eyes, so much so that my entire being was wholly captivated by what was happening on the screen.
After a separation of nine years, Ethan Hawke’s Jesse finds the one who got away, Julie Delpy’s Celine, again at a bookstore. It is a story of missed chances, ill-fated coincidences and jaded souls. The impetuous and enchanting evening that they had spent in Vienna nine years ago had taken a lot more out of them than they had ever expected, and left them slightly bitter. As they stroll down the streets of Paris, they realise that while time has taken its toll on them, the chemistry and connection that they had once shared were not subjected to the same ravages of time.
It felt as if I was back in the company of old friends again, and glad that they had finally found each other. On one level, everything seems to be similar to Before Sunrise. It’s not quite a movie, but more of an engaging and long conversation. You are made privy to the things that they say but you don’t feel as if you are intruding or eavesdropping. But on another level, you realise that things have changed. No longer are these two people filled with dreams and ideals, they are now at a different phase of their lives and have become more weary and realistic.
Celine, in particular, touched the very core of me. The way she hated herself for never being able to let go of the past, the way she tried to pretend in front of Jesse in order to protect herself, the way she laments about how she never quite healed with each failed relationship, the way she misses each lover and understanding that nobody can ever replace another person in her heart because each of them were different in their own ways – that’s realistic, that’s what life really is, there’s none of that fairy tale BS. And yet, you secretly root for them, hoping that they would find their way back to each other.
Kudos to director Richard Linklater, who co-wrote the script together with Delpy and Hawke. There’s nothing contrived about the lines and it is that, together with the amazing chemistry that Delpy and Hawke share that lifts the movie high up above the rest. The little nuances of their body language, the powerful emotions that they convey with just a glance, a smile – all these just make you feel for them.
This is not a movie that evokes strong polarising emotions, there’s no “you either like it or you don’t”. It’s more of “you either get it or you don’t”. Anybody who has been hurt by love, gone through painful times trying to move on, had regrets in love, had second chances given to them in life, who has simply loved whole-heartedly before will find this movie a heart-stirring experience.
PS This is the most excellent song heard on the trailer of the movie.