in Criterion Month, Review

Before Sunrise (1995)

For this year’s Criterion Month, I decided to watch Richard Linklater’s beloved Before Trilogy. What I didn’t take into consideration is that I’d have to write about those films. How do you write about a film that’s all conversation? Do I just do a recap of the convos with the occasional interjection, “That’s a good point, Julie Delpy.” Don’t expect a deep dive here. I’ll just give a general summary of what I like about Linklater’s more thoughtful way of filmmaking.

It’s surprising for me to come to terms with Before Sunrise being the film Linklater made after Dazed and Confused. Whereas Dazed had a huge cast, with lots of classic rock songs, and drinking and smoking, Before Sunrise is the polar opposite. It’s interesting that Linklater started out making talky arthouse movies, to the more conventional Dazed, back to more talky arthouse movies with Before Sunrise.

Before Sunrise was inspired by an experience Linklater had meeting a random woman in Philadelphia and then wandering around the city with her deep into the night. It doesn’t sound like a lot for a movie but it works for two reasons. One, many of us have similar meet-cute experiences in our lives. The kind of day where you meet someone and it totally changes the trajectory of your day, maybe your life. Two, the kinds of conversations that Jessie (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have feel very natural. Few films capture such a relatable depiction of a budding romance as Before Sunrise.

Jessie meets Celine riding the Eurorail after breaking up with his girlfriend. He only has one more day before he has to fly back so after a lengthy conversation with Celine, invites her to spend the day with him in Vienna. In Vienna they meet an assortment of interesting strangers; a pair of cynical actors, a fortune teller, and a street poet who will write a poem for anyone after they give him a single word. The pair gives him the word: “Milkshake.”

It’s a sweet movie that never feels too schmaltzy and never gets too down. I say “down” because you know their time together is limited. At least until the sequel(s). You want Jessie and Celine to succeed because of their chemistry and sheer charisma. It helps that both Hawke and Delpy did uncredited rewrites to heighten the romantic elements between their characters.

I don’t feel the need to dive into the conversations, robbing them or their nuance. The pair talks about the big subjects i.e. past relationships, goals, future relationships. It makes me wish I could go on a Before Sunrise adventure. I’ll just have to live vicariously through Jessie and Celine. Which I will continue to do in my review of Before Sunset. Will I have more or less to say than this review? Not sure, but we’ll see if I find a meaningful way to include the word: “Milkshake.”