Sam Glatt’s review published on Letterboxd:
...time passes. Life gets in the way and we unintentionally break our promises. Life stops us from chasing things that we wanted when we were younger. We become more fully realized versions of ourselves (some of us, anyway).
To me, BEFORE SUNSET plays out almost like a horror movie. Two lovers reconnect after nine years, and then their emotional growth (or in Jesse's case, the lack thereof), shows how incompatible they might have truly been. And then, there's a moment, (here, with Celine), a realization, that fleeting connection with what we once thought was love has fully and utterly hindered us in our own growth.
We know (or at least feel) that we have grown, but then a reconnection with the past rockets that latent emotion to the surface. And we realize: Even as we've grown out of idealized and romanticized ways of living, our romantic and idealized perceptions of love can destroy us without our even realizing it. And then, almost powerless to our previous perceptions of love, we sink deep back into it.
This plays out like a horror movie because the differences in Jesse's and Celine's growth almost makes it feel like Jesse is holding Celine hostage by his perception and memory of their night together. Jesse, having spent the better part of nine years, writing a "fictionalized" novel about their night, can't and won't let go of this night. And he refuses to let Celine let go either. It's disturbing, in a way.
We say that we won't revert to our older selves. We won't fall into the traps of our youth.