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The plot is minimalist, since not much happens, aside from walking and talking. The two characters’ ideas and perspectives on life and love are detailed. Jesse is a romantic disguised as a cynic, and Céline is seemingly a romantic, albeit with some doubts. Taking place over the course of one night, their limited time together is always on their minds, and leads to their revealing more about themselves than they normally would, since both believe they will never see one another again.
I adored this film when I first saw it 20 years ago. In my view, it remains as fresh and relevant as ever. Remarkably, nothing about it seems dated.
The characters achieve incredible emotional intimacy in just one night, thanks to their desire to pack in as much as they can before parting forever. It reminded me of the recent research that found couples falling in love after asking and answering just 36 questions. Making oneself vulnerable by revealing one’s deepest beliefs, hopes and fears is an incredibly personal invitation.
My favorite quote from the movie is by Celine:
“I believe if there’s any kind of God, it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me, but just this little space in-between.”
She’s describing their separateness, how they might enter that space and close it. She continues:
Before Sunrise quote
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have incredible chemistry – it rivals any screen couple, in my opinion. What remarkable luck that these two actors, cast separately, could create something so wonderful and real.