Synopsis: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Running Length: 101 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: I remember when Before Sunrise was released on VHS in 1995. I was working at Mr. Movies and the one copy we received couldn’t stay on the shelves long enough for me to see what all the fuss was about. When the film cooled off a bit I was able to take it home and give it a look-see because I was trying to expand my film knowledge outside of the latest action flick from Sylvester Stallone.
Well…I’d like to say I watched Richard Linklater’s film the whole way through but in reality I turned it off about ten minutes in. I wasn’t engaged, I wasn’t moved, and I wasn’t able to appreciate the simplicity of the structure that Linklater (Bernie) and co-writer Kim Krizan had provided. I’ve actually tried to watch the film several times over the years but still couldn’t quite get it to stick, stopping each attempt around the same time.
It took my urge to see every Oscar nominated film to get me to circle back to Before Sunrise after all these years. With the latest installment (Before Midnight) being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, I knew that to complete my task I’d need to man up and give Before Sunrise another fair shake…and this time it finally got its hooks into me.
While most audiences (like 1995 me) would rather stay home than see a film centered on two people walking around Vienna doing little more than talking about their lives, those that do take the leap will find great rewards. What struck me so much about the film is that for as dialogue heavy as it is, it’s remarkably lithe and less heavy than you’d think.
Most of the credit has to go to stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Sinister) who are able to take Linklater and Krizan’s script and make it feel like they’re coming up with the words on the spot. It’s well-known that Delpy and Hawke helped mold the script and especially Delpy was dissatisfied no credit was given to the actors for what they brought to the finished product.
Hawke is the one that really shines here, though, with Delpy at times feeling like she’s not entirely sure of the words that are coming out of her mouth. As the two wander around town they meet a few characters that contribute to the plot but aren’t intrusive enough to feel shoe-horned in. The conversations are generous and interesting with each actor having several moments to shine.
Between a little dip of energy near the end and the aforementioned habit of Delpy feeling a tad out of sorts it’s not a perfect film, however, and I think it runs just ever so slightly on the long side. Still, it’s heads and tails above most romance films of that era that weren’t equitable in their doling out of smart dialogue to their stars. Before Sunrise gives both actors their fair share of finely nuanced details, creating a charm hard to duplicate.