FilmFest: Walkability before sunrise

Welcome to the yowLAB Film Festival discussion for our fourth film, Before Sunrise, directed by Richard Linklater. Our reviewer this month is Siu Hong Yu. His review/synopsis is included below.


  • If you have not yet watched the film, it is available for online rental on YouTube.
  • To contribute to the discussion, please feel free to use the comment section following the review.
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  • Or tweet your comments @yow_LAB #yowLABFilmFest

We hope you enjoy the film and the discussion. Without further ado. . .

I fully enjoyed the last two documentaries featured at the yowLAB FilmFest but was wondering, hey, what about exploring what makes cities click through works of fiction? Maybe it would bring in a different audience. As it turned out, Sarah Gelbard, one of the co-directors of yowLAB, got that all figured out and was just looking for movie recommendations. So here it is, the first one that popped in my head. From condo shopping to city planning, walkability seems to be all the rage these days so why not spice it up with the possibility of finding your soulmate in the process. Bon spectacle!

A chance encounter between two strangers in a foreign city. They walk around, talk, fall in love, kiss and talk some more. Tonight is the only night and when the morning comes, the two go their separate ways, changed.

No, you won’t get any tree-hopping vampires nor old houses to restore here but what “drama” Before Sunrise may lack, it more than recoups with its heartfelt, timeless dialogues and genuine chemistry between our chatty young lovers Celine and Jesse, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

Through their conversations on life, death, religion, feminism and of course, relationship and love, Jesse and Celine journey through their first date while taking us on a walking tour of Vienna. From the almost-kissing scene (above) inside a record store listening booth to the confessional faux-telephone calls (below) in Café Sperl, you know in your heart of hearts, this can’t just be a one night stand. They belong to each other!

By mapping out the location sequence, one may be disappointed that it is highly unlikely for the couple to hit all the spots in real life given the time frame. The Cemetery of the Nameless, for one, is practically in a suburb. Deep down, I think part of the allure of this impromptu romantic side trip is the carefree nature of a stroll where parks, bars, café‎s and grand museums are all within walking distance.

And then, on a makeshift bench out of a pile of pallets down a hidden alleyway, Celine ponders about what brings out the magic between two people. The answer lies not in the certainty but the attempt of understanding someone, of sharing something. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest the same goes with the messy business of urban planning?

Walkable cities are sexy.



  1. Sarah Gelbard said:

    Anyone else catch that Celine’s father is an architect!

  2. Sarah Gelbard said:

    At the end of the movie, they reveal that the encounter happened June 16-17. Coincidentally, I watched it June 17 on the Greyhound back to Ottawa after spending the day wandering around Montreal on foot!

  3. Sarah Gelbard said:

    I’m curious to survey what cities everyone has explored on foot.

    I went to Paris with my dad when I was 12. Between family visits, we spent a good part of the week walking and I would mark out the route whenever we stopped at a cafe or park or restaurant. Some walks were guided by cousins and aunts and uncles so we got the local’s point of view. Other days we just wandered. I wish I knew what I did with that map!

    In university, I spent a month in Italy. We started in Rome and every few days would move north to a new city or village, ending in Venice. Just as I started to get my bearings, it was time to move on and start again. I lost about 10lbs that month from all the walking.

    More recently walked cities: Oslo, London, Oxford, New York, Boston, Philadelphia. I definitely pack sensible walking shoes when I travel!

  4. Sarah Gelbard said:

    Some great twitter responses to the survey of great cities to explore on foot.

  5. Sarah Gelbard said:

    Comment submitted by xbongo:

    I did manage to watch ‘Before Sunrise’. It’s a movie I should have seen years ago,
    but I never managed to get a copy … and it was stopping me from watching
    ‘Before Sunset’ and ‘Before Midnight’. The movie is slightly dated – I liked that
    it followed two characters who had no car, little money … who else would end
    up in a cemetery!

    Richard Linklater has done a interesting bunch of movies over the years:
    two lo-fi rotoscoped movies (‘Waking Life’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’), a cult classic (‘Slacker’) …
    this summer, he’s finally releasing ‘Boyhood’ which was filmed over a 12-year span.

    There’s an extra long profile of Linklater in the New Yorker and there is a surprising
    tidbit: he’s also a real-estate “developer” …

    “Linklater bought a thirty-eight-acre parcel of land near Bastrop, half an hour southeast of Austin. The terrain was thick with pine trees, which reminded him of East Texas, where he grew up. He started building on it, doing much of the construction himself. The state didn’t require permits then, and many of the structures—a simple cabin among the trees, tennis courts—had a nonce air.

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