Before Sunrise ★★★★

I was 12 when Before Sunrise was released, and it wasn't until I was about 14 that I first experienced it. At the time, I was a fan of conversation-centric movies like Clerks, The Breakfast Club and even (to some degree) Pulp Fiction. These showcased fantastic writing and some of the most well-established characters to a degree that my sensory-centric young brain just didn't seem prepared for - after all, I grew up through the years where truly convincing special effects and rich (loud) soundtracks became the standard for cinema. Sensory overload was what caught the audience's (and certainly a young man's) attention, and most of the movies I would call 'formative' for myself as a young movie aficionado would share these traits. I remember Before Sunrise distinctly in this period of my life for being starkly different.

Returning to Linklater's first in the Before series, the intangible feelings and serenely powerful awe I experienced when I first saw the film returned to me, but I feel as though I am now better equipped to truly understand why Linklater's work here is so impressive. I'm now able to actually articulate what lasting effects the film is able to have, and I'm proud of that younger version of myself for giving the film a chance all those years ago and not discounting it. I was 14, and revisiting this film at the age of 30 brings a deeper understanding of Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), one that a young man could only ever get the gist of. But something resonated with me then, and still does to this day.

Throughout the film, the dialogue between our leads is often non-stop and completely fluid, framed in long single-take cuts and absolute minimalist scenery. These conversations have a power in their natural flow, with neither character feeling overbearing or under-reaching. But these long, drawn-out conversations about both banal and epic topics also have just as much power when they stop being conversations. For a movie featuring so much talking, many of the truly sublime moments in the film happen where the characters aren't talking, and stop long enough to share glances or let ideas soak in. It's in that balance that Linklater demonstrates an effortless gift at understanding what makes a conversation impactful. Similarly, Hawke and Delpy truly shine, as actors who are either so well-rehearsed that they are completely entrenched or so fully natural in their roles that they roll seamlessly from one notion to the next – it's difficult to tell which, and that's actually an utterly disarming quality.

Before Sunrise is a movie about love - about pasts and hopes and dreams and futures and sharing all of these things. But it's not a romantic film. There's romance, sure, but the connection between Jesse and Celine doesn't seem to fall into any cinematic idea of chemistry. And it makes sense seeing as chemistry, as a word, means a clinical, empirical understanding the science of fundamental relationships. None of which applies to the natural and nuanced connection being established and unfolding within this film. A rose is romantic. This film is sunlight giving a rose its life.

I still feel an immediate sense of longing at the end of the film as a harpsichord and violin intertwine over locked-camera picture, summating the experience of two souls coming together and drifting apart again. But I also still feel the same sense of hope I had upon first seeing this film - that the story of Celine and Delpy wasn't over, even if all we got was this one film. I'm thoroughly glad that's not the case.