Ethan Hawke did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jesse Wallace in Before Sunrise.
Speaking of Boyhood that film might have worked if Richard Linklater had someone managed to make it about Ethan Hawke from the 80's to 90's. Instead of doing some impossible time bending though the two's collaboration started with this film. Hawke plays a young man Jesse on a trip with Europe who comes across a young French woman Céline (Julie Delpy) who happen to strike up a conversation on the train but before their paths uncross Jesse encourages her to spend the rest of the day with him in Vienna as his plane leaves from there the next day. She agrees and the rest of the film is the progression of their relationship mostly through their conversations as they go from one place to another in Vienna. Now the role seems simply enough in that Hawke just plays a young guy who does not have any serious problems in his life, and at worst has just a bit of pretense that a young man of his age can possibly develop, though nothing too worrisome. In fact I think Hawke does something very important in his very first moment of his performance, which is one of my favorite moments of his performance, is he does not set Jesse up as just some smooth operator. This is shown just in his very honest moment just before he first speaks to Céline, as he shows the hesitation and frankly just the effort needed to find the courage to speak to her.
Hawke putting this before the rest of his performance is essential in helping the audience sympathize with him once he takes the next step to invite her to his day, which he has nothing planned. It must be said that Hawke and Delpy have fantastic chemistry with one another particularly the way they play with it throughout the course of the film. The two realizes an undeniable connection just in the sheer comfort the two have in their interactions with one another, but importantly neither actor simplifies this into an abundant love too soon. The two are remarkable in the way they portray the progression of this really in each and every conversation throughout the rest of the day. As the proceed the two slowly begin to break down the awkwardness of strangeness and proceed to grow an even stronger warmth in their interactions with one another. They fall in love in such an unassuming and eloquent fashion. Although again something that is quite special about this, past what they already achieved which in itself is special, is that the two though also do manage to also create some of the problems that arise from the familiarity as it grows. Their fights are not severe though two make it so genuine in their portrayal of just the certain tensions that become more problematic, but give their relationship a natural depth.
Now I say Hawke could have Boyhood work, not only because with the real Boyhood Hawke made the scenes that do work in that film work, but also because Hawke just seems to understand Richard Linklater's wavelength as a writer and director, although apparently Hawke and Delpy both contributed to the writing of this film as well. What Hawke does so well though in regards to Linklater is make the words simply just work. Well here's the thing in regards to Before Sunrise, which in a way is a bit different from many films that focus on mostly speaking, is that the film is not necessarily excessively witty, though it certainly has insight. This is not a criticism of the film in the least, and it is notable that the film manages to make the conversations as engaging as they are despite not being particularly imperative in nature. A great deal of credit for this belongs to Hawke and Delpy because they both make it feel completely in the moment, and without even the slightest hint of anything being put on. Something that Hawke does that's rather risky is that he even allows Jesse in a way to have unlikable qualities at moments, though Hawke makes these feel an actual part of the guy that do not overwhelm rather just adds up into just who he is. Hawke and Delpy are wonderful in that they make the relationship and both people feel absolutely true. Although what they talking about does slowly gain greater importance there is never a tonal shift, but the two manage to make what they say to one another only mean more as the film progresses. The investment we feel only grows as their investment in one another does, and their final goodbye is quite moving without the film ever trying to enforce the emotion of the moment upon us. This is a terrific work from Ethan Hawke, and it is not surprising that he went on to become such a frequent collaborator with Linklater, as Hawke understands Linklater's vision and knows exactly how to bring it life through his performance.