Two travellers meet on a train in Europe as they about to begin their journeys home. They decide to spend their last 24 hours together talking about life and love.
When was the last time you saw a leading man ask his onscreen love interest what she might begin to hate about him, were they to stay together? Probably never, actually — unless you happen to have seen Before Sunrise, an overlooked-at-the-cinema but utterly charming blend of romance and realism that breathes new life into the genre.
Two strangers, Jesse, and Celine, meet on a train bound for Vienna: he is heading for Austrian turf to fly back to the States; she is on the way home to Paris, a plan disrupted when Jesse successfully charms her off the train. The pair proceed to spend the entire night wandering around the Austrian capital, sharing cerebrally charged anecdotes and gradually falling in love. And as the sun comes up and the time for them to go their separate ways grows ever closer, the possibility of them ever seeing each other again becomes steadily more remote. Director Richard Linklater earned his hip-directorial stripes with Slacker and Dazed And Confused, but with this intelligent, witty and poignant tale he really comes of age, replacing romantic stereotypes with fleshed-out, believable characters and giving Delpy the kind of sassy, spirited role that most actresses can only dream of. The glamour effect, too, is played down, focusing on the glorious Austrian scenery instead, and at times even slipping into fly-on-the-wall documentary mode. But what really transforms what is fundamentally two people walking the streets nattering into something utterly irresistible is a script that crackles with wit and wisdom, that allows the pair to weigh up the pros and cons of prolonged coupledom instead of drenching them in hearts and flowers sentiment. Just five minutes of screen time in the company of Hawke and Delpy provides more insight into relationships than a dozen romantic comedies could ever muster up between them. A rare treat indeed.
Too intelligent to be soppy and too damn good to be ignored. While the loose, talkative style may not settle well with those of a more wham-bam persuasion, this most natural of love stories succeeds in feeding the noggin as well as warming the cockles.