Before Sunrise is the first of a three-movie trilogy spanning eighteen years. Director Richard Linklater filmed Boyhood over twelve years with the same cast, but here each look into the lives of Jesse and Celine get their own feature. Ethan Hawke is Jesse, and American student wasting time roaming around Europe waiting for his flight home to the US after a bad breakup. Julie Delpy plays Celine, a Parisian college student returning to Paris from visiting her grandmother in eastern Europe. The movie follows Jesse and Celine through a single evening in Vienna Austria. Jesse convinces Celine to spend the night wandering the city after a conversation on the train.
Rich Linklater broke new ground with 1990’s Slacker. Kevin Smith attributes Slacker as the inspiration for Clerks. As you might expect Before Sunrise is dialog heavy. While we get glimpses of Vienna, the dialog is what makes this film so great. Jesse and Celine are at the beginning of their lives and are young, opinionated, optimistic, and bright-eyed. Their youthful hopefulness is mixed with the kind of ignorance we all had in our early twenties.
As they fall in love throughout the night they elect to not say goodbye. Hours before they must part ways they decide to not share any information that would allow them to stay in contact with each other. They want to preserve the uniqueness of this night and not ruin it by maintaining a cross-Atlantic relationship. They make a compromise at the end of the film agreeing to meet back at the Vienna train stations in six months as the final credit roll. The ending is intentionally ambiguous.
The entire movie is put into a small box, one night in Vienna. The short time frame allows the movie to focus on the two leads, though there are very few other characters. You get a real sense of how Jesse and Celine feel about the world and are very quickly rooting for them. The movie doesn’t feel limited because it fully explores the space it set itself in.
This movie should not be viewed on its own. It is best to set up three days where you watch the entire series. The first movie hooks you in and fortunately, now we don’t need to wait nine or eighteen years for the subsequent films. This is a fantastic beginning to a fantastic trilogy. Younger viewers may struggle to comprehend a time when email did not exist and the thought of keeping up with friends around the world was expensive and challenging