Go Watch Before Sunset

I’m really happy to see The A.V. Club endorse Before Sunset.

Before Sunset (2004)
The ending of Richard Linklater’s 1995 dusk-to-dawn romance Before Sunrise was bittersweet perfection, the ambiguous end to a magical evening in Vienna between two hyper-intelligent young people, an American (Ethan Hawke) and a Frenchwoman (Julie Delpy) who met on a train. Viewers were left with the tantalizing question: Did the lovers meet again at the same place one year later, as they promised, or was this the last they’d see of each other? It seems foolish to provide an answer, but the miraculous follow-up, Before Sunset, is somehow even better. In the nine years since they last met, Hawke and Delpy have changed—Hawke, for one, has a wife and child—but their brief reunion in Paris brings up old thoughts of what might have been and what might still be. Linklater again ends with a perfect question mark, but if he, Hawke, and Delpy want to pick up the thread another nine years from now, they won’t be second-guessed.

Can’t say I agree about the “hyper-intelligent” part, but we’ll bracket that. I’m listening to Devotion). What an album! What a year!

I’m very proud to have a December birthday. My mother also has a December birthday, which reminds me: my mother is my hero. She was 28, the age I’ve been for most of this year, when she first settled in the United States, and she had two small girls and a husband in tow. A few nights ago, I talked to a really impressive young man about his mother, who was from a wealthy family in Bangalore. She had managed to avoid getting hitched until 26, at which time she persuaded her family to let her accept a prestigious fellowship to study medicine at Cambridge. I found the story intriguing. At the same time, I had a weird pang of jealousy, as it brought to mind some of the opportunities my mother missed out on by virtue of starting a family under straitened circumstances. My mother came from a more modest but fairly educated background for the time and place, and she was also offered a fellowship to study medicine in England when she was 21. Despite the fact that her father was kind of a proto-feminist, he was also an instinctive nationalist who found the prospect of being very far from his oldest kid hard to take. Her mother, in contrast, was an arch-traditionalist at the time, most likely a function of her class. A combination of parental pressure and cultural obligation led my mother into an arranged marriage. I am one of the belated results. I was struck by the fact that my friend’s mother made it to the late 1970s. My mother got hitched in the early 1970s, an extremely chaotic period in the history of her native country. Things might have been different if she could have bought herself a bit more time. Both of my parents are, I’m proud to say, round pegs in square holes. One thing we forget about the immigrant experience is that immigrants are often oddballs; my parents certainly are, in the best sense (I like to think). I’m pretty sure I care about policy and politics primarily because of the complicated way failed institutions, civil war, pervasive corruption, and male domination limited my mother’s life chances, and my basic optimism is probably influenced by the fact that a fairly strenuous life never dissuaded her from being incredibly generous, warm, and open to the mysteries of life. My mother reads hard-core academic histories, she does incredibly exhausting work, and she thinks a lot about out-of-body experiences. Given all the time and resources in the world, I am fully confident that I could never come close to being 2 percent as cool as she is. Interestingly, though not one of Midnight’s Children, my mother is almost the same age as independent India and Pakistan, which gives me a useful gauge as to the duration of the post-colonial moment. Were you to tell me that my mother’s propitious birthday has given her mystical psychic powers, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash: it would explain a lot. I’ve done nothing to deserve having such an extraordinary outlier in my life. So perhaps this settles the debate. Let’s nationalize the moms!