Before Sunrise

Reviewed By Jason Whyte
Posted 04/08/04 16:49:28

"If only I could meet Julie Delpy on a train..."
5 stars (Awesome)

"You know, I have this awful paranoid thought that feminism was mostly invented by men so that they could like, fool around a little more," says Celine, one of the two leads in one of Richard Linklater's best films, "Before Sunrise." This is a movie that contains long, witty conversations that are smart, well written, and absolutely realistic dialogue to support a one-night romantic encounter. To wit: what would happen if two people with different backgrounds wound up for just one night together? And no, I'm not talking about sex, but an encounter that changes both of the characters forever, and how both parties learn from the experience. "Before Sunrise" is so powerfully ethical, and it even works as a romantic comedy just the same.

The film opens on a train coming into Vienna. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is on his way home, origin unknown at first. He meets Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train and they both hit it off really quick. As Vienna hits, Jesse comes up with a crazy idea: since it is his last night before he flies home, what if Celine gets off the train with Jesse and just walks around town with him? Jesse woos Celine off the train, and as weird as it seems at first, the two begin to form a bond and they start to learn about one another.

"Before Sunrise" could have went in a hundred directions after this encounter, but the movie does something unique in romantic comedies: it focuses all aspects of their time together on conversation. There's no real "plot" here; guy meets girl, girl and guy like each other, they both spend time together and so on, but the most striking aspect of "Before Sunrise" is how the two people communicate as if people who were under these circumstances would talk. It works so well that we fall for both characters, and we as viewers will die to see them together, even if we know, and they know, that their night together will soon end. Linklater is very smart with his material here, to suggest everything that these two people may do before they part.

Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy deserve the highest regard for their work; both performers are absolutely natural here. Hawke has never been more relaxed and honest here, as a seemingly cocky but eager to please Jesse, and Delpy is amazing as girl who seems shy and distant at first but has her own views on life, love, and whatever they have to talk about. And Richard Linklater, who has done conversation movies like the teen gem "Dazed and Confused" and "Slacker," really likes Vienna, and gives the whole land a romantic and interesting view. Anyone who hasn't been to the city will also benefit from the sort of travelogue in the movie, too (you feel like you could travel there and sit atop the bridge Jesse and Celine looked over). This may not be one of the most beautiful movies ever made, but Linklater is honest about the way Vienna looks, and he shows it.

Call it what you want. Date film. Think piece. For the guys, your girlfriend will adore you for watching this, and you get to look at the lovely and talented Julie Delpy. Girls, your guy will get wrapped up in the characters as much as you will. (And check out Ethan Hawke in the process.) "Before Sunrise" will not fail to either party; this is one of the best romantic comedies ever made.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.