As Valentine’s Day approaches, there’s never really any hesitation in my mind as to my ‘go to’ romantic film – it has to be 1995’s Before Sunrise.
On a train bound for Paris, young American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French girl Celine (Julie Delpy) meet by chance, caught in the crossfire of an elderly couple’s argument. They strike up an immediate connection. Jesse is licking his wounds after being dumped by his girlfriend and heading for a flight out of Vienna the following morning. He convinces Celine to get off the train with him and spend the night seeing the sights of the city.
They wander the streets of Vienna; take a ride on the famous Ferris wheel; have their fortunes told by a gypsy; encounter a street poet and are given a bottle of wine by a benevolent bar tender, “For the night of your life!” But essentially this is about Jesse and Celine, and that magical moment when two kindred spirits meet for the first time.
The film is beautifully shot and wonderfully cinematic, although you could be forgiven for thinking it was adapted from the stage. Scenes are long, unhurried and feel like snapshots of real life. Hawke and Delpy have terrific chemistry and their characters, with all their aspirations, philosophical musings and foibles are fully realised creations. By the end of their single night together, you genuinely care about what the future holds for them.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Sunrise was inspired by a night he spent walking the streets of Philadelphia with a lady called Amy. The film would go on to spawn an unexpected sequel with Before Sunset (2004) and then another chapter with Before Midnight (2013). By this time Hawke and Delpy were receiving co-writing credits for the screenplays and both films are just as insightful on how love between two people plays out as the years roll by.
If you haven’t seen Before Sunrise I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. If you have, then like me you’re probably thinking it’s high time you saw it again.
By Tom Brookes
From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 14th February 2018.