Jesse and Celine meet on a train. Celine is a French woman making her way back to Paris after visiting her grandmother. Jesse is an American man going to Vienna to catch a plane back to the United States. The two form a strong bond throughout the short train ride. When the train arrives in Vienna, Jesse suggests to Celine that she gets off in Vienna with him and visit the city with him before his departure the next day. She agrees and the two begin their trek through Vienna. They travel to Viennese landmarks, cafes, pubs, yachts, and even a church and cemetery. They discuss life, religion, love, past relationships and heartaches, and gender roles. Jesse's real reason for traveling across Europe is further expounded upon. Jesse and Celine encounter several other people in their journey, from a pair of playwrights/actors to a homeless poet. As the night wanes, the two begin to despair as to whether they will ever see each other again. They entered their agreement with the understanding that their being together would only be for one night. But now, the couple seeks to break their vows, culminating in a satisfyingly ambiguous ending.
This film hooked me by the 5 minute mark, a rare feat for any movies. I can simply describe this film as magical. I absolutely loved the script. It's fresh. The dialogue scintillates. Some of the highlights include Jesse convincing Celine to get off the train with him because she might be time travelling into her past right now to give all of her missed connections a chance; Celine saying that her life right now is but the memories of an old woman, herself; Jesse and Celine visit a cemetery populated with bodies that have been retrieved from a river bank - the two wonder whether those people committed suicide and Celine points to the tomb of a 13-year-old girl, the same age she was when she first discovered the cemetery. The movie feels real. You are able to connect to the characters and, for 110 minutes, forget that you are watching a movie. You are watching real people going through the pains that come with past relationships. Real people who forgive their past hurt to allow a new relationship to bloom. There is no unnecessary melodramatic elements to the film. It feels authentic in the questions that it poses and the answers it refuses to spoon feed.
Overall, Before Sunrise was a fantastic experience and yet another film I can add to my pantheon of favorite movies. I cannot wait until I update my favorite movies list in two and a half months. Till then, I'm going to rent Before Sunset (the sequel) and watch Before Midnight (completing a trilogy) when it comes out in theaters this year! I will also be checking out Waking Life, a stand-alone film that ties in to the trilogy. I cannot have enough of Jesse and Celine.