Before Sunrise is a romantic evening written and directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Boyhood) which brings together a young American man, Jesse played by Ethan Hawke, and a young Frenchwoman, Celine played by Julie Delpy, as they spend the night wandering together in Vienna after meeting on a train.
An Admittedly Insane Idea. The film opens on a simple enough encounter on a train that begins with awkward banter but eventually evolves into so much more. Jesse is on his way to Vienna to catch a flight stateside the next morning while Celine is on her way home to Paris after visiting her grandmother. Their interaction is cut short upon reaching Vienna where Jesse boldly asks Celine to get off the train with him and keep him company through to the morning. He doesn’t have enough money to afford a hotel and was just going to wander around and it’d be a lot more fun if she came with him. Will she? Of course. The story is the ultimate romantic fantasy: meet a beautiful someone in a foreign place, have an instant connection, and spend an incredible time together walking through the streets of Europe. Doesn’t get more romantic than that.
This Little Space in Between. Linklater is known for his dialogue-rich features. He lets his characters sit and talk about everything from love and life to relationships and reincarnation. These existential quandaries filled with insights into the mundane moments of our lives to the bigger questions of existence are part of what’s so charming and compelling about the characters in his projects. One could sit and listen to these folks talk and talk for hours without ever getting bored. What makes it even better is that underneath these conversations we get to see the subtext of the moment, the thoughts and feelings of these characters as their relationships begin to bloom. In all these ways, this may be Linklater’s magnum opus.
Walking & Talking. For a film that mostly consists of medium two shots of the pair walking and talking with a few inserts of the surrounding areas here and there, this is as engaging as any high octane thriller. Jesse and Celine are instantly likeable, their chemistry is some of the finest you’ll ever see on screen, and even though we know the runtime of the film is limited and these characters know they may only have this one night together time is never something on anyone’s mind. The audience is as engrossed and involved in each beautiful moment as these young lovers are. It’s something only the finest level of writing, directing, and acting can fully provide.
The Answer Must Be In The Attempt. “If there’s any kind of magic in this world...it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.” Beyond being a story about two strangers falling for one another in an evening the film enlightens one on some of the regular mysteries and magic of life that are often overlooked. The two individuals have such similar yet wonderfully opposing views on so many factors of life it allows the audience to, if not completely connect to one character, connect to portions of both characters as their thoughts and beliefs are shared from moment to moment. It’s this beautiful thing that allows viewers to live vicariously through this romantic scenario between these two while also opening one’s hearts and minds to aspects of reality that maybe one never stopped to consider before. Little things that connect us all, that make us all human no matter how different we can all be at the same time.
To Be Loved A Little More. What Before Sunrise sets out to accomplish it does so immaculately. The writing is pristine and engaging, the chemistry and overall performances are honest and affecting, and the direction that brings it all together is masterful and assured. The film as a whole works on so many levels and is guaranteed to bring out unique thoughts and feelings from each individual who experiences it and hopefully will help make individuals more aware of the magic of a moment as it unfolds in their own lives.