By Rob Blackwelder
This light, delicious bon-bon of romantic chemistry and youthful philosophy stars Ethan Hawke as a young American backpacking through Europe, who meets a beautiful French girl (Julie Delpy) on a train to Vienna and convinces her to keep him company for his last 14 hours on the continent. Consisting of little more than a long stroll and stimulating, intelligent, flirtatous and frank conversations about everyday getting- to- know- you topics like parents, love, sex, childhood, life, death (and the meanings of such things), the film couldn't be simpler -- or more utterly absorbing.
As the pair walk around the beautifully photographed Old World city, the Byronic energy between them grows more heady and yet more nakedly honest -- after all, what do they have to lose since they've made a romanticized pact never to meet again and just remember the night as a lovely singularity? But can they stick to that plan?
Seemingly improvised and entirely natural but still structured and splendidly directed by writer Richard Linklater, "Before Sunrise" is the kind of film that leaves you feeling warm and hopeful in a way that makes you want to take on the world.
*** out of ****
(105m | R)
Read my review of the 2004 sequel "Before Sunset"