Wednesday, May 17, 2017

REVIEW: Before Sunrise

Just because I am a guy it doesn't mean that I can't be wooed by a romantic movie.  Sure, I enjoy explosions and car chases, but I like to believe that I can appreciate a good story in any genre.  A movie doesn't need to be Mad Max: Fury Road to get my blood pumping.  That being said, there are a lot of romance movies that I find myself rolling my eyes at and getting overly frustrated by the use of tropes and predictability.

One of those tropes is the 'meet cute,' where two people come together with charm and an affection is almost instantaneously introduced.  It can be nauseating, to say the least.  However, in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, the meet cute is one for the ages.  Two people in their early twenties, Celine (played by Julie Delpy) and Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) cross paths on a train in Europe and strike up a conversation.  Like most meet cutes, it is witty, but what separates this from others is that it is real and authentic.  They almost immediately begin sharing life openly like you can find yourself doing when you are talking to someone who you believe you will never meet again.  I have had many good conversations with strangers while waiting for a bus or standing in line at a grocery store.  You don't have to put up a front and can just be yourself.  This person will never know you, and that gives a freedom of open expression.

That freedom is exploited in this film as the two end up forming a connection and spending a night wandering Vienna as Jesse waits for his flight back home to America the next day.  It is a love letter to the spontaneous nature that lives in the beast of humanity, and one that is often ignored and hushed.  The two, living in the moment, embrace the nature of their meeting and instil a sensation in the audience member that perhaps they too could have lived this moment had they made different choices in their lives.

As the two interact and talk, they reveal bits of who they are.  One is a cynic, the other is open to different things.  These revelations of character are drawn out through their conversations.  This movie is almost all dialogue, and is a great credit to the writing power of Linklater and fellow scriptwriter Kim Krizan.  A human voice is a powerful thing, and when the words match the reality that they are facing, it can lead to very intriguing viewing material.

Aiding the script is the acting performances of Hawke and Delpy.  They are both young, full of energy, lacking experience yet believing that what they have gone through so far has taught them a lot about life.  It is all very believable, and I could see myself a great deal in the character of Jesse, pondering life and philosophy at such a young age and believing that I had it all sorted out.  The movement between Delpy and Hawke is like a dance, as they portray body language that furthers what they are saying.  It is extremely convincing, something that so many movies, not just romantic ones, miss out on.

Speaking of romantic movies, it is easy to not bind oneself to the love story that is being told.  It can take a great deal of imagination to put yourself in the shoes of those on screen and bite what is being fed.  That is not the case here.  Because of the dialogue and the performances, the attraction shared between the leads is real.  These are two people who have embraced what fate has delivered them, and they are living it to the fullest.  It is an accepted one night relationship that morphs into frenzied desperation for a continued relationship by the end.

I like movies that I can easily be lost in.  Ones that tell a tale that can transport me out of my living room with chip crumbs all about to the place that is being depicted on screen.  With Before Sunrise, I was not just watching it, but I was living it.  That is the power of a great tale.  Although I am perfectly happy with my life as it is, I was left wondering what would have been different if I had the courage of spontaneity.  For those who are too scared to live that way, Before Sunrise is a perfect substitute for the real thing.

Star Rating - 4 out of 4 stars


  1. I would argue one of the things that makes this "Meet Cute" work is that they instantly connect with each other and are willing to be open rather than the typical "hate at first sight" deployed by many movies to build to their eventual connection. The immediate report feels more authentic, and without the unnecessary bicerking, we get two hours of these two bonding and growing together. It allows for us to feel a part of this romance and be very invested.

    I agree this movie shows the power of sponteniety but also asks the queions is it better to have "true love" for just one night or to never have it all. The interesting thing is the characters are trying to figure out that answer themselves and I get a sense even after spending the night together, they aren't really sure of the answer.

    It is that unknown and sense of navigation that really does make it feel like a dance. One person makes a move and the other needs to carfeully orchetsrate their response.

    One thing you didn't mention here, but we did discuss during the podcast, was the great supporting players. I think they were crucial in being windows into the personality and desires of the main characters. This is a classic, and one we may have to revisit on the show to unearth other conversations and insights. It is definitely one that deserves yearly viewings.

    1. I completely forgot to mention the people that they come across. I am glad that we talked about it on the podcast, because it adds a lot of flavour to the movie. The two guys in the play were my favourite, the palm reader was insightful for the characters, and the poet was charming. They were all great additions to the movie.