Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise (1995)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

’Before Sunrise’ is an almost completely overlooked romantic gem by writer/director Richard Linklater (’Slackers’ and ’Dazed & Confused’). Taking place entirely over the course of one magical night in Vienna, the film explores the trials and tribulations of young love in a manner that is sweet, yet never becomes saccharine.

Ethan Hawke stars as Jesse, a young American who has been bumming around Europe following the disastrous breakup with his girlfriend in Spain. As he heads to Vienna to catch his flight back to the States he encounters the beautiful Celine, played by Julie Delpy, who is returning to Paris after a visit to her grandmother in Budapest. The chemistry between the two is immediate and they engage in long conversation while their train slowly nears Vienna. Pulling into the station, Jesse gets up to leave and says his goodbyes to Celine. Hesitating, he turns around and delivers one of the finest monologues in romantic cinema history, convincing Celine to get off the train with him and explore the city until his flight departs the next morning. Walking the streets of Vienna, the couple engage in very heartfelt and frank discussions of what it means to be in love as they grow ever closer to one another.

What really sets the film apart is the interaction between the two lead characters. As they begin their adventure they are both tentative and steal small glances at each other — neither one is sure of what they’re doing or what to say. Slowly they begin to open up and their romance blooms in a way that is at once realistic and engaging.

The DVD is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format (a full frame version is available on the reverse side of the disc). The transfer is very clean with accurate colors and contrast throughout and the mostly nighttime setting comes across very well.

The DD 2.0 soundtrack delivers a solid front soundstage with the occasional atmospheric sound effect or piece of song drifting to the rear speakers. My only quibble is that the voices seem a bit weak for such a dialogue-driven film so some volume adjustment will be needed to achieve the proper balance.

It is very rare that a movie in the ’boy meets girl’ category is able to avoid the well-worn cliches and present a very realistic, humorous, and touching look at young love. Due to the deft direction of Richard Linklater and the strong performances of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, ’Before Sunrise’ is a pure delight to watch and should be enjoyed by anyone with even the slightest splinter of a romantic bone in their body.