by Camden Ferrell
Before Sunrise was released in theaters 25 years ago, and since then, it has risen the ranks as one of the most poignant modern love stories. Richard Linklater has never strayed from exploring the human condition and what it means to connect with someone, and this film is a testament to his ability as a filmmaker. This is a movie that captures two people falling in love in an achingly beautiful way, and it has aged gracefully.
The premise of this movie is incredibly simple. Two people, Jesse and Celine, meet on a train and engage in a nice discussion. As Jesse is about the leave the train, he asks Celine to leave and spend the day with him. Surely enough, they both leave the train and spend an unforgettable day together where they learn more about each other and themselves. It’s a story that is propelled by the interactions of its characters, and it doesn’t rely on any gimmicks or major plot devices to remain thoroughly charming and entertaining.
The script is penned by Linklater and Kim Krizan with some uncredited help from both lead actors. This collaboration makes each character feel unique and properly developed in their mannerisms and actions. What’s so remarkable is how much of ourselves we see in these characters, and it makes their journey feel especially personal. The dialogue doesn’t force insight or humor, it lets all of its topics and discussion arise naturally in way that is evocative of real life.
This film is led by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who both deliver phenomenal performances. Their chemistry is palpable, and their relationship is one of the most beautiful things in film. Both actors give their characters life in a way that feels completely realistic and incredibly engaging. Their performances remind the audience what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, and it’s extremely powerful in that regard.
I see this movie as a fantasy grounded in reality. These two lovers allow themselves to escape their lives just for one day. It feels like a dream, but it’s rooted heavily in the real world. Even though they are discussing heavy moral and philosophical topics, it still maintains that atmosphere of infatuation and wonder that makes it so charming. It allows us to see the best in others and truly appreciate the time that we have. It’s effective in illustrating concepts of life, death and love, and it makes us think about all of our previous and current relationships. For the audience, it digs up memories and feelings that may have felt long gone, and it presents it in a way that feels comforting and empathetic.
It’s an undeniably sweet film that mercilessly tugs at your heartstrings. Whether you’re currently in love or going through a rough separation, this movie will find a way to speak to you in a unique way. It’s a nearly universal exploration of love and connection, and it creates a longing that we will all inevitably crave by the end of the movie. Its full of memorable and cute moments that really make the film special. The listening booth scene will never fail to bring me to such joyful tears, and there are many romantic and poetic moments like that scattered throughout.
This is a film for all ages, persuasions, and tastes. It is still a timely story even though the times have changed drastically. The movie wrestles with complex human emotions and puts it into words better than anyone ever could have. Does it come off as sappy at times? Yes, but it’s the subtext that really give this film a deeper meaning. It’s not just about love. It’s about what we love, who we love, and why we love. Everyone wants to have this kind of emotional connection, and its an innate desire that continues to speak loudly to this day.
After 25 years, Before Sunrise remains an essential piece of modern filmmaking. Its one of the most effective and memorable examinations of the human relationship, and it’s one that spawned two sequels which were equally brilliant. This remains one of the finest films in Linklater’s impressive filmography, and it’s one that is definitely worth revisiting over and over.
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