Wednesday, September 25, 2013







Run Time: 105 min.


Boy meets girl.  A perfect first date.

A first date, if long and interesting enough, can tell you a lot about the other person.  For some reason when two people genuinely connect, they share a lot on initial dates. Perhaps it is the promise of a new pristine relationship that emboldens one to bare oneself honestly.  Or perhaps one is caught up in the emotion of an auspicious beginning and doesn't care about portraying oneself in any particular light.  Writer-director Linklater's experimental movie takes us along on a lovely first date between two young twenty-somethings, Jesse and Celene.

It is 1994, Bloomsday (16th June, the day James Joyce met his future wife Nora and walked the streets of Dublin) when Jesse and Celene happen to come across each other on a train headed to Vienna. There is an initial spark between the two and he convinces her to get off the train in Vienna and spend time with him till sunrise, when he has to catch a flight to the states.  We then follow the two strolling around in Vienna having interesting and diverse conversations as they get to know each other... and we get to know them. 

Linklater wisely chose his characters to be in their twenties instead of teenagers.  This is not a teenage rom-com.  These are characters that have already been through their teen years and have just entered into maturity.  They are still young and idealistic (perhaps somewhat pretentious to some) but have well-formed notions and ideas. Their conversations range from topics of love and life to spirituality.  The script is extremely well written and the discussions are very engaging.  The pace is unhurried but there is no lull in the movie.

Jesse has been touring Europe and is fresh off a break-up with his girlfriend, which is the reason why he is on his own and headed back home.  Celeste is returning to Paris from a visit to her grandmother in Budapest.  He comes across as an intelligent, charming and perhaps a little unsure young man.  She, on the other hand, is smart, confident and somewhat feisty.  Both are very attractive and intriguing young persons and we don't mind spending time with them.

There is a quiet yet powerful chemistry between the two leads and Linklater allows this to develop without rushing it.  We catch them stealing glances at the other when one is not looking, especially in a scene at a record store (remember those?) listening to music.  There is a moment when one reaches out and almost brushes the hair from the the other's face because it just seems so familiar.  They talk about nothing in particular but lay out interesting thoughts.  What if the human soul is just a fragment of the original soul and as we multiply further, it get further fragmented?  Is that why we are so scattered and specialized?  Isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?  Why is it that a dog sleeping in the sun is beautiful but a man standing at a bank machine is mundane?
The night slowly builds towards the inevitable sunrise when the two have to go their separate ways and the magical night must end.   While there  is no climax which might seem contrived or forced, the impending moment looms throughout the night.  The movie works primarily because of the two leads.  Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have an effortless chemistry and their conversations seem less scripted and more adlibbed.  Linklater does a great job of involving the city of Vienna as a silent performer in the narrative. 
Clearly, we find it difficult to part with these characters and want to accompany them beyond sunrise.  It is a remarkable feat by an adventurous director and makes for a very memorable movie.