A older couple begins to quarrel. As the situation dies down, we see two young people look up from their books and notice each other. Had this happened in a movie these days, they would be texting, asking each other for their Snapchat profile. Since the film is long before the time of social media, the only thing these two strangers can really do is talk. The whole opening dialogue on the train sets up what to expect from Before Sunrise: It is not about the content of the conversations, but the outer connection of the two leads.
As the train stops, the boy comes up with an idea: Until his flight in the morning, why not spend time with this woman he just met? Of course, red flags would be popping up, but not when they both sense a strange connection of this sort.
Only after they agree to the idea and get off of the train do we find out their names: Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American tourist, and Celine (Julie Delphy), a french Art student.. Seldom in movie history has their been a more convincing couple. Knowing that they will probably not see each other again, they don’t go over their whole life story (at least in great detail). No, they talk about what one would call the little things in life (especially for people in their early twenties). The negatives of breaking up. Random life philosophies. Feminism…and so on.
The film’s success lies not just in the hands of the leads, but the hands of writer/director Richard Linklater. He is such a master of dialogue and human realism it has become his metier. Though I have seen a lot of them, it seems that a good amount of TV/film directed at a youthful audience yearning for romantic content is filled with over the top drama (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy) and not enough authenticity. It is always refreshing to see romances take the right amount of time for the characters to admit their feelings. Both Jesse and Celine share more honest answers with each other than nearly any other film couple I can think of. And that is why this film is refreshing: it’s real.
Parents, the film is rated R, but I leave it to you to find out if your teenagers (not younger) should seek this out. There is a casual amount of swearing and kissing, but no sex scenes (the only nudity is that of various statues in the city).
I somewhat am hesitant to call Before Sunrise a story about a summer romance (not just because it takes place in the winter). The film is the first of Linklater’s “Before” Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, all 9 years apart). While all are great in their own right, I respond the most to this, perhaps because it is where I am at personally now in my life.