RETRO REVIEW: Before Sunrise (1995)

Theatrical Release Poster – Columbia Pictures

The following is a retro review of Before Sunrise — Directed by Richard Linklater.

For the longest time, I had wanted to finally watch Richard Linklater’s critically acclaimed Before Trilogy, but I somehow never found the time — until now. This week, I watched the trilogy from start to finish over the course of maybe 30 hours. One of the greatest surprises about this Before Trilogy marathon was how hard I fell in love with the elegant young love story that Linklater presented in the first film about the unlikely lovers, Celine and Jesse.

Before Sunrise is a film about one night of shared experiences, intimate conversations, and longing looks. In the film, Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke), a young American man on his way to Vienna to catch a flight back to the United States, meets Celine (played by Julie Delpy), a young French woman on her way home to Paris, on a train departing from Budapest.

They share an instant connection, so when Jesse has to get off in Vienna, he asks if she would be interested in walking around the city of Vienna all night with him — a complete stranger. It is an odd proposition, but he somehow convinces her that he can be trusted. Although that almost sounds like the premise of a horror movie, what actually follows is one long night of conversation and an intense interest between two people on separate paths.

“Don’t forget you are stardust.”

Although I am sure that this is the type of film that has been said to be very much of its time — a 90s movie — I do, honestly, think this film is wonderfully timeless. Because even though the suspected finality of end of the night in Before Sunrise might not have been a problem with updated technology, Linklater’s film is so intensely relatable because of how effortless and elegant Hawke and Delpy’s very personal interactions are.

Delpy and Hawke are, of course, both brilliant here — Linklater got so much out of his two stars. It is amazing how, in most cases, it doesn’t feel improvised or written. The dialogue in their captivating conversations feels so natural and so genuine. It is such a realistic night of romance that contains long walk-and-talk one shots that make it feel like you aren’t truly watching a movie, but, moreso, being a part of the conversation — a trusted observer.

Before Sunrise just flew by for me, and I’m amazed by how enthralled I was by it. Delpy and Hawke’s chemistry pulled me right in and kept me hooked. It is a perfect experimental love story that conjures up an ineffable sense of warmth and personality in even the most intimate and yet unspectacular conversation scenes.

Although I know that many prefer the Linklater ‘slacker’ comedies, I find myself in a place in my life where I absolutely adore these types of films and Linklater truly did something special here. Before Sunrise is a masterpiece — it expresses the cinematic value of gentle and sweet romance so very well. Sweetness, new love, and unfanciful dialogue does translate well to the screen, even if there isn’t some evil twist hidden at the end of it. Here the only villain is time, and the goal is the understanding of the value of what is shared — evenings, personal information, a touch.

10 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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