State of the Franchise: Before Sunrise

By Jason Barney

June 26, 2013

I'm going to cheat on Uma Thurman? Future Me is an idiot!

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We make the mistake of thinking films with huge budgets, mega explosions, and reality altering special effects are the only ones worthy of sequels. At the fringes of the box office world there are occasional gems that attain cult status. They have achieved a following every bit as passionate as the more marketed options. They are released to select theaters, based on story or character development, and revolve around themes, issues, or creativity.

Every so often, those fun, artsy, independent films deserve a second act.

Such is the case with Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. They are for those looking far beyond epic battles, scary creatures, and futuristic settings. This romantic series is for those looking for an exploration of the heart.

Before Sunrise (1995) - 8/10

Talk about a nice, quiet film. What a breath of fresh air.


Before Sunrise is a simple story that chronicles a chance meeting between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) while riding a train from Budapest to Vienna in 1994. They observe a random argument between a middle aged couple. After a polite remark from Jesse and a few bright smiles from Celine, and the two youngsters enjoy the rest of the ride.

Their mild flirtation and intellectual back and forth progress through the evening. The sun sets, darkness arrives, and the two are still balancing between the individuals they were and the bond and attraction they feel. Not wanting their time together to end, they begin to see each other as potential companions.

As the night morphs into the early gray of morning, they have hopelessly fallen for one another. They lay in the park, talking about the world, cuddling, not wanting the moment to be over. They make love.

Daylight arrives, with their schedules demanding they part ways. Wrapped in hopeful commitment, they pledge to see each other again in six months.

Richard Linklater delivers a surprisingly entertaining story here, and the performances of Hawk and and Delpy have a lot to do with it. It is almost hard to conceive that a film about two people getting to know each other over the span of a night would hold anyone’s attention, but this one easily does. It is about the time we have, the opportunities we take advantage of, and true love.

Released to a small number of theaters in January of 1995, Before Sunrise was a date opportunity for couples wanting warmth during cold winter months. It cost $2.5 million to make. It was just a small, slice of life film, but enough people noticed it, as it brought in $5.5 million. As the years ticked by, it earned a sequel...

Before Sunset (2004) - 9/10

The unlikely next chapter picks up nine years later. Jesse has become a writer and is touring Europe. Celine has read his novel, visits him at the book signing, and we learn they did not reconnect as they had intended to. The timing of their encounter is difficult, as Jesse is to catch a flight back to his wife and child in the United States later that night. They spend the late afternoon and early evening together - first walking, then in a coffee shop; eventually they find themselves on a boat ride. As the sun approaches the horizon, they end up back in her apartment.

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