Before Sunrise is astonishingly brilliant as both a cinematic masterpiece and a testament to that uncanny connection we all wish we could have with that certain special someone. Despite a startlingly simplistic premise, the film exhibits some unconventional albeit ingenious philosophical dialogue that sheds light on just about every subject one could ever hope to discuss. Seeing as how Hawke and Delpy’s characters have literally just met, not to mention the bizarre circumstances surrounding their even being together in Vienna, it’s at first odd to witness two complete strangers chatting incessantly about such a wide variety of topics, personal and impersonal alike. As time progresses however, one can’t help but acknowledge the profundity of the connection these two individuals have on every level, which is precisely why Before Sunrise succeeds so well in achieving what Linklater and company set out to achieve in the first place.
While the aforementioned dialogue manages on multiple occasions to be both intelligent and thought-provoking, I couldn’t help but wonder if this, for lack of a better term, impromptu type of love really does exist in our society. Granted, it’s only a movie, but the brilliant chemistry Hawke and Delpy exhibit with one another from start to finish is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and the genuineness to be found within their interaction with one another is relatively hard to come by in contemporary cinema. As a whole though, Before Sunrise isn’t quite perfect but comes damn close thanks to its endlessly charming leads, dynamite script and gorgeous Viennese backdrop.
As a sequel, Before Sunset is more of the same, yet a whole lot more. While the film explores territory similar to that of its predecessor, our central characters’ circumstances have, needless to say, changed substantially. Having not seen each other since their night together in Vienna together nine years prior, it’s remarkable to see how quickly the two manage to pick back up right where they left off. With this comes the sense of genuineness that made the first film so enjoyable, along with the chemistry between our two leads that’s as spot-on as it can be.
Before Sunset, like Sunrise, starts out innocently enough, what with Jesse and Celine almost mindlessly babbling about everything they’ve been up to over the years and then some. As it progresses, it becomes apparent that these individuals really do belong together, and they both know it, but therein lies the problem of Jesse’s wife and kid and Celine’s current fling with an unknown suitor. Thanks to some excellent pacing and a clever, nearly flawless script, their true emotions begin to bubble forth as their time together draws to a much-dreaded close, revealing that true love is really what they share. These sequences, to me, were where Before Sunset managed to excel the most, thus allowing me to favor it very slightly over Sunrise, and I do stress very. With little room for error outside of what some may think of the ending, it’s hard not to acknowledge Richard Linklater’s 2004 masterpiece as one of the decade’s best.