Before Sunrise (1995) - 9 stars out of 10
“Before Sunrise” is completely unconventional. And it’s awesome. This is the only movie series that allows you to watch a love story develop progressively through time. Granted, there was no indication that two more films would follow when this one first appeared in 1995, but the end result is an opportunity to watch two characters fall in love and grow old together over the course of 18 years in real time. Outside of the time-lapse development of the story throughout the series, this film successfully stands alone as an unexpected love story. The plot is minimalist, comprised completely of candid conversations between these two young characters. The conversations feel improvisatory and take place through long tracking shots, often several minutes long without interruption. I think that it would have to be categorized as a “stream of consciousness” film, as the ideas just flow from the minds of the characters. This style works perfectly in the context of this story and I can think of no other film to compare to this one. The screenplay, written in a mere 11 days, geniusly brings these characters to life through simple conversation. The film was inspired by the real-life experience of director Richard Linklater, who met a woman in a toy shop and then spent the day getting to know each other through their conversations as they wandered around Philadelphia. I think that is what makes the film feel so genuine. We have all known a Jesse or a Céline in our lives and this story gives us hope that, someday, our chance meeting could turn into true love. Beyond the script and concept, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are what make this film real. Their acting is has so much finesse that it transcends “acting” and must be called “living a role.” Both are attractive enough to believe their initial interest but not so attractive that they fall outside of the realm of “normal people.” This film starts with an awkward conversation, progresses as these characters help each other to discover who they are, grows intense as important secrets are revealed, and ends with one of the most heart-wrenching goodbyes of any film. This is a bucket list movie for any person who has ever fallen in love… or needs to be given hope that they will one day.