What if you had a second chance with the one that got away?
Nine years have passed since the events of Before Sunrise, when Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) had met in Vienna. Since then, Jesse has written a novel, This Time, inspired by his time with Celine, and the book has become an American bestseller. To help sales in Europe, Jesse does a book tour. The last stop of the tour is Paris, and Jesse is doing a reading at the bookstore Shakespeare and Company. As Jesse talks with his audience, flashbacks are shown of him and Celine in Vienna; the memories of their night together have clearly remained with him despite it being nine years later. Three journalists are present at the bookstore, interviewing Jesse: a romantic who is convinced the book's main characters meet again, a cynic who is convinced that they don't, and a third one who, despite wanting them to meet again, remains doubtful they actually do. They represent the three possible ways a viewer might guess what the aftermath of Before Sunrise might be, according to his or her own personality. Celine appears in the audience and sees him, and he, in turn, recognizes her. Jesse has a short time before his plane departs and invites Celine to share it with him.However, once the presentation is over, the bookstore manager reminds him he's got a plane to catch and must leave for the airport in a little more than an hour, and so just like in Before Sunrise, Celine and Jesse's reunion is constrained by time. Just like in the prequel, the characters are thus forced to make the best of what little time they have together, and this makes it easier for their conversations to become ever more personal, starting out with the usual thirty-something's themes of work and politics and then, with ever increasing passion, approaching their love for each other, just as their time together is running out.As they talk, each reveals what has happened since their first meeting. Both are now in their early thirties. Jesse, now a writer, is married and has a son. Celine has become an advocate for the environment, lived in America for a time, and has a boyfriend, a photojournalist. It becomes clear in the course of their talk that both are dissatisfied to varying degrees with their lives. Jesse reveals that he only stays with his wife out of love for his son. Celine says that she does not see her boyfriend very much because he is so often on assignment.Early in their conversation, they broach the subject of why they did not meet as promised, six months after their first encounter. It turns out that Jesse had returned to Vienna as promised, but Celine did not, because her grandmother had suddenly died before the scheduled date of the meeting. Because Jesse and Celine had never exchanged addresses, there was no way for them to contact each other, which resulted in their missed connection.Their conversation as they traverse Paris places them in various venues, including a café, a garden, a bateau mouche, and Jesse's hired car for his stay in Paris. Their old feelings for each other are slowly rekindled, even with tension and regret over the missed meeting earlier, as they realize that nothing else in their lives has matched their one night together in Vienna nine years prior. Jesse eventually admits that he wrote the book in the distant hope of meeting Celine again one day. She replies that the book brought back painful memories for her. At one point, in the hired car, during a tense moment when Jesse is confessing his loveless, near sexless marriage, Celine reaches her hand out to touch Jesse but pulls back just as he turns to her.In the concluding scene, Celine and Jesse arrive at her apartment. Jesse had learned that Celine plays the guitar and persuades her to play a waltz song for him. The waltz (which was written by Julie Delpy herself) is revealed through the lyrics to be about their brief encounter.Jesse then plays a Nina Simone CD on the stereo system. Celine dances by herself to the song "Just in Time" as Jesse watches her. As Celine imitates Simone, she mutters to Jesse, "Baby ... you are gonna miss that plane." As the camera slowly pans in, Jesse smiles while nervously fidgeting with his wedding ring and ambiguously responds, "I know," leaving the viewer to guess whether he stays or leaves, just like the three journalists who interviewed Jesse at the beginning of the film.
Score: 85 %