Valentine’s 2014. Before Sunrise (1995)

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

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“Alright, alright. Think of it like this: jump ahead, ten, twenty years, okay, and you’re married. Only your marriage doesn’t have that same energy that it used to have, y’know. … You start to think about all those guys you’ve met in your life and what might have happened if you’d picked up with one of them, right? Well, I’m one of those guys. … See, what this really could be is a gigantic favor to both you and your future husband to find out that you’re not missing out on anything. I’m just as big a loser as he is, totally unmotivated, totally boring, and, uh, you made the right choice, and you’re really happy.”

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It began on a train.

Jesse (Hawke), an American about to leave Europe after traveling around on the trains for a couple of weeks, strikes up a conversation with Celine (Delpy) and convinces her to wander around Vienna with him for the night.  As they talk about a wide variety of topics, the two realize they have a deep intimate connection, and in less than a day they go from total strangers to passionate lovers.  

Before Sunrise is a film with a specific niche audience.  Fortunately for Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy, that niche includes movie critics, and the audience is large enough to justify the two sequels that have been made thus far.

This film set the tone in large part for Before Sunset and Before Midnight as far as format and the type of story that’s told.  The core of this and the other movies is a conversation between two people where there is very little that’s off limits.  A main theme throughout is life itself, and Jesse and Celine come to a better understanding of their own lives as they see parts of themselves reflected in the other person.

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The chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are vital to the success of a movie, and subsequent franchise, like Before Sunrise.  The scene where they have an imaginary conversation with a friend of theirs back home is probably one of my favorites in this movie.  It drives home the underlying feelings each character has for one another, and also provides a little comic relief as Delpy impersonates an American man.

It’s hard for me to be critical of a film like Before Sunrise.  It’s a realistic representation of what could happen in everyday life.  It cuts through Hollywood superficiality and adds depth to two young characters while keeping the younger idealistic and at times naive tendencies of people in the beginning stages of adulthood.  It’s a fine line to balance, but the script and acting do this in a way that seems authentic and genuine.

I saw Before Sunrise after first seeing Before Sunset, and knowing these two characters back story helped in my appreciation for Sunset.  On its own Sunrise does a good job of capturing that young perspective while adding layers of candid honesty and realistic feeling.  I like how Hal Hinson put it in his review for The Washington Post, “Before Sunrise is not a big movie, or one with big ideas, but it is a cut above the banal twentysomething love stories you usually see at the movies. This one, at least, treats young people as real people.”  I’ll enjoy watching this film from time to time, and I’d definitely recommend it and its two sequels.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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