By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
If you stop and think about this thing we experience called life, it’s not much more than a set of non extravagant circumstances that can be separated into segments of what ifs. What if you hadn’t decided to apply for the job you are in the midst of a career in now? What if you turned the other way when that friend for life asked you your name? And then there’s the one Before Sunrise explores. What if, in a fit of spontaneity, you decided to temporarily abandon plans to go home in order to spend an entire day with a woman you just met? This question is pondered upon within the course of Before Sunrise’s 100 minute running time. All of which add up to a movie that doesn’t use sub plots involving exes. Nor is there any music to tell the audience how to feel. It relies on the sole power of stars Hawke and Delpy to convey their emotions through sharply written dialogue and fits of uncomfortable circumstances turned into romantic ones. The result is a film that displays more romanticism within the course of Celine and Jesse’s one day together than most Hollywood fare convey using standard storytelling techniques and bigger stars.
Before Sunrise is based on an experience that director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) had with a woman in Philadelphia after a choice meeting in 1989. It starts with beautiful Celine (Delpy) reading on a train and getting frustrated with the bickering couple seated next to her. In a fit of irony, she rises from her current seat and sits in one located up the aisle and near a slumping against the window Jesse (Hawke.) After talking it up with her in the lounge car, the time comes for Jesse to get off the train. Yet, this is when we as an audience yell at him not to. Thankfully, he works the nerve to ask her to join him on a walk around Vienna. Before Sunrise doesn’t feel like a film. In complete contrast, it more or less feels like a pane of invisible glass that we are looking through as these two characters get to know each other. Where Linklater succeeds and most fail is that he possesses something that is essential for any great filmmaker to have: patience. And he uses it so very well here, letting the relationship develop as we spend time listening to Jesse and Celine exchange thoughts on things such as life reincarnation and romantic cynicism.It should be noted that no matter how well a script is written, it is nothing without actors who do not perform it well. Linklater really knew what he was doing when he cast Delpy and Hawke. Displaying the emotions they show could not have been easy. After all, they have to be two people falling in love right before our eyes. Linklater doesn’t hold back on showing the awkwardness that comes with these emotions. One particular scene involves Celine and Hawke listening to music in a record store listening booth. It is amazing to see both Hawke and Delpy in this scene. One looks at the other. Then turns away in time for the other not to catch them looking. It is simple and natural. And a big factor in the reason why Before Sunrise works so well. In real life, there is not a simple glance leading to love that Hollywood productions constantly exploit. It is about those instances you share with the other that would be detrimental if shared with any other person. And all of these built up feelings come to light in perhaps the most romantic scene of the entire film, in which Celine and Jesse reenact phone conversations with their best friends. What they ‘would’ say to these people is actually being told to the other, and the way their feelings come out within this conversation is brilliantly written and acted.
There are a number of questions asked and not answered by Before Sunrise. All of which I will not spoil here. They are questions that if asked by another film in another context, would be frustrating to comprehend. All I will say is that by the end of the film, you want these people to be together. Yet, the fact Linklater leaves these two as he does is perhaps the most romantic aspect of the film. Beautifully acted, smartly written, and gorgeously shot, Before Sunrise is essential viewing for those looking for a highly romantic story that is not jammed down your throat. And if by the end of Before Sunrise you aren’t aching to share a glass of wine in the park with your romantic partner, then you can kiss any sense of romanticism you two share goodbye.
5 out of 5