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25 Years Later: Before Sunrise

1 April 20 words: George White

It's been over two decades since Richard Linklater began his Before trilogy, starting off with that fateful meeting on a train in Vienna... 

Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Andrea Eckert
Running time: 101 minutes 

In the ‘age of coronavirus’, meeting a random person on a train and walking hand-in-hand around a big city sounds like the last thing you’d ever want to do. But 25 years ago, in the beautifully simple days of the 1990s, this provided the premise for one of the most iconic romantic movies of all time: Before Sunrise

The first of a trilogy - which could potentially become a quadrilogy, if rumours are to be believed - that has captured the hearts of many film fans all over the globe, Richard Linklater’s optimistic yet realistic tale of young love still leaves a mark on new audiences over two decades later.

In many ways, Before Sunrise presents an idyllic scenario for young romantics. The idea of meeting someone in the middle of nowhere, through pure chance, and instantly having a connection is what many lost souls in their early twenties long for - and the dreamlike nature of the film’s storytelling perfectly captures this. 

The beautiful scenery, the foreign language and the characters’ general lack of care for where they go or what they do adds a sense of adventure that many people crave in relationships. The film ultimately offers little in terms of activity but the sense of mystery between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) adds enough excitement to keep the audience hooked - their playful, flirtatious dynamic proving truly intoxicating. 

This dynamic is expertly crafted by Linklater and Kim Krazan, whose refreshingly honest, unfiltered script is poetically written. Every conversation between the leading duo is gripping, the natural and original dialogue developing a convincing and interesting relationship between the two from the very first scene.

Linklater’s intimate and dreamlike storytelling perfectly captures the joys of young love

The script tackles the key themes of early adult life, including love, family and simply trying to feel like you belong. It provides an emotional and philosophical depth that you don’t expect in a romantic movie, and finishes in a perfectly heartbreaking way - leaving the characters mourning the loss of their relationship but appreciating the time they had together. 

Hawke and Delpy deserve great credit for selling these characters to the audience. Jesse’s openly flirtatious behaviour could easily come off as annoying and, let’s face it, a little creepy, but Hawke’s charming display is majorly effective, his subtle line delivery helping to breathe authenticity into the character. 

And Delpy is fantastic as Céline, her layered and sincere performance helping to create a fully three-dimensional character in a relatively short space of time, adding a sense of vulnerability to an otherwise enjoyably confident performance. 

The connection between these two characters, instantly felt from the moment they meet, sets up a memorable adventure that makes Before Sunrise one of the most impressive romantic films of all time. Linklater’s intimate and dreamlike storytelling perfectly captures the joys of young love, the delicately honest script brilliantly delivered by the movie’s lead actors. This intelligent, introspective film undoubtedly remains one of the genre’s best, even 25 years later. 

Did you know? Most of the script was re-written by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Delpy later expressed frustration that they were uncredited for their work. 

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