There are only a small number of films which can transport us back to the surprises, delights, and enchantments of a first encounter with someone who takes our breath away. Before Sunrise, a Columbia Pictures release, is such a movie.
Ethan Hawke stars as Jesse, an American who is traveling by train to Vienna. He meets Celine, played by Julie Delpy, who is a French graduate student on her way to Paris. They are both in their 20s. He tells her about his idea for a cable channel showing 365 days' worth of 24-hour documentaries about people's real lives in different spots around the world. She talks about a visit with her grandmother. Then Jesse reveals how as a child he had a mystical vision of his deceased grandmother. When he asks Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna, she agrees.
In this beguiling and well-realized follow-up to his previous films, Slacker and Dazed and Confused, director Richard Linklater shows how two individuals can reach out to each other and express themselves through conversation. This is the talkiest film since Whit Stillman's Barcelona, and hopefully it signals a trend that we'll be hearing more interesting dialogue between men and women on the screen.
Whereas Celine treasures the magic in encounters with a palm reader and a street poet, Jesse's response to them is cynical. However, in the end, it is his suggestion that they focus all of their energy on the rest of the evening so they can remember and cherish it as a singular experience. In the glare of the morning light, their yearning to stay together is palpable, yet they part.
Linklater closes the film with a poetic montage of the places in the city where they lingered and bared their souls, which seem somehow changed for their having been there. And we know that for Jesse and Celine their one enchanted evening in Vienna will be an oasis in time which they will savor for the rest of their lives.