Richard Linklater’s utterly charming feature takes the simplest of premises and turns it into a meditation on life, love, and the million choices which shape our destiny. As Jesse and Céline head towards that first kiss their conversation likewise wades into deepening waters as they compare notes on everything from intimacy and indifference to the politics of life and death. And as the sun sets over Vienna the city transforms into a magical netherworld alive with portents—a fortune teller sees past their palms and into their hearts; a gypsy’s dance puts Céline in mind of creation; an old woman hobbles past like Mother Time herself; and in the background trains and trolleys pass each other going in opposite directions. It’s these subtle visual cues coupled with a disarmingly natural script which couches heavier philosophical musings inside featherweight chatter that makes Linklater’s opus so irresistible. That, plus the voyeuristic glow—simultaneously erotic and melancholy—which comes from watching two handsome strangers drift towards each other knowing that their time together is measured in mere hours. A study in what might have been—or what may be to come for this is but the first instalment of a trilogy—that one can’t help but apply to their own experience. What would my life be like if I had done this instead of that?

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