(United States, 1995)
In my opinion, Before Sunrise is the most romantic film to be released in the last 20 years. I have no qualms about making this statement; I have seen the contenders and found them lacking. I am aware that there are some viewers who find Richard Linklater's movie to be slow and plodding, because nothing much happens. But that's the point – this is a character-driven story, not a plot-driven one. It's about the simple delight that comes from spending time in the presence of someone with whom you share a fundamental attraction. Most romances take the falling-in-love portion for granted and expend time and effort showing the ramifications. Before Sunrise focuses on the falling-in-love, because, given the setup, there are no ramifications. The actors are charming, and Linklater's direction is superlative. He gets all the little details right, and that's one of the film's great strengths. Supposedly, Before Sunrise is a fictionalized account of something that happened to the director. Considering the verisimilitude, I have no difficulty accepting that piece of background information. Looking for a great date movie? You couldn't ask for a better one.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train traveling through Europe. His destination is Vienna, where a flight back to America awaits him the next morning. She's on her way to Paris, where she starts classes at the Sorbonne next week. From their first moment of eye contact, they're drawn to each other. They share a meal in the lounge car, savoring the conversation more than the food, and when they arrive in Vienna, Jesse persuades Celine to disembark with him and keep him company wandering the streets until the time comes for his plane to depart. Thus begins an unforgettable screen romance.
One of the first things to notice about Before Sunrise is how completely natural it all seems. Credit both director Linklater and his two leads. We are privy to everything, including the sort of "unimportant" dialogue that most films shy away from. Here, its inclusion is just one of many fresh elements. The movie is about life, romance, and love. It magnifies the little things, paying scrupulous attention to the subtleties and mannerisms of body language. Before Sunrise is an amalgamation of memorable scenes, yet, as they saying goes, the whole is more than a sum of its parts. This cinematic romance speaks as much to the mind as to the heart, and much of what it says is likely to strike a responsive chord -- a rare and special accomplishment for any motion picture.
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