Writer/Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, Libby Villari
For the last twelve years director Richard Linklater, along with actors Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, have been filming scenes for this incredible movie. They play a divorced couple and the story is centered on their son Mason Jr, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane. The story captures the evolution of this young boy from the age of six through eighteen. At the beginning of the movie, we witness how Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater) deal with spending their coveted weekends with their dad. You could think of Mason Sr. as that parent that still needs to grow up and take responsibility. He wants to show them what tough love is, but there is that relaxed spontaneous side of him. Their mother, Olivia, goes back to school in order to provide for both of them. She later remarries and now they have a blended family with two new siblings. The years pass and Mason hits the awkward stages of adolescence. He experiments with pot and alcohol like any teen with his background probably would do. He finally grows into his own identity while in high school and finds a passion for photography.
There is all sorts of buzz behind the movie regarding the fact it has literally been in the making for the last twelve years. Richard Linklater (the Before Sunrise trilogy) wanted to tell the story of a child growing up and set out to do something we have never seen a movie do before. Linklater, Arquette, and Hawke all continued to work on other projects, but every year they came back to shoot portions of this movie. There are plenty of movies where we have seen characters age, but with Linklater’s approach behind filming one scene per year spanning those twelve years, the audience watches the actors grow up before our very eyes. There are no make-up tricks or stunt casting. There is a seamless and graceful transition as we move through the timeline the film progresses. There are no fade outs or a date giving the year each scene was filmed. It never seemed jarring or disruptive to think that in one scene he’s eight years old and now he’s ten or thirteen or eighteen, etc… While the story is focused on Mason, Linklater duly felt the importance of giving the other characters their arcs, problems, struggles, and triumphs.
The story draws you in, not due to some overly complicated plot or edge of your seat action, but by Linklater’s delicate storytelling. You slowly find yourself invested with an emotional connection to these characters and their journeys. It would seem implausible for a moviegoer not to connect with someone in the film. As I sat and watched Mason grow up, it brought me back to various aspects of my childhood. While my story isn’t exactly like Mason’s, I have had those similar moments. I am a product of divorced parents so I can easily remember those days of spending weekends with my dad or what it was like having my wonderful step-sister join our family. I remember those fights I had with my brother in the car that ended up with a pillow barrier between us. I hit those early teen years and went through my awkward stages of feeling left out or not part of the group of cool kids. Even if you don’t relate to Mason, someone’s story will hit you. You may empathize with Olivia’s fight to give her children the best life they can have.
It is clear that Linklater wrote the movie as the years passed. Each scene reads as a pop culture time capsule of what was going on at the time it was filmed. The music spans the likes of Sheryl Crow, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, and Family of the Year. Mason and his friends geek out over the midnight release of one the Harry Potter books. Mason Sr. gets his kids wrapped up in the political atmosphere when Barack Obama and John McCain ran for president. It may even drum some of your own memories surrounding a particular toy, gadget, movie, or book.
When you think about the talent needed to pull off this sort of task, Linklater really found the right ensemble. He has worked with Ethan Hawke multiple times, so I’m assuming that was one of his easiest choices. Patricia Arquette shines in a maternal way that I have not seen from her before. Linklater’s biggest risk came with newcomer Ellar Coltrane. He had no idea what Coltrane would grow up to be like, if he would grow to be a better actor, or grow up to detest acting. I can only bet that Mason grew around the kind of man Ellar became. The same can probably be said about any of the characters in the film and the actors that portray them. I applaud the risky endeavor Linklater took on as there is no way he knew when he started this project how it would end up turning out.
As I was watching Boyhood, it reminded me of when you spend years watching a television show and how invested you get in the characters. You feel like you know them inside and out and don’t really want to leave them once it’s over. It has been a couple of days since I experienced this movie and it still permeates inside of me. It’s rare when a film that seems so simple and basic has that affect on you. Some moviegoers may roll their eyes at the run time of almost three hours, but I always felt connected to every moment. It never feels too terribly long as each scene feels like its own mini episode. There is an overall purpose to the length to give this thorough look at Mason’s life. I am typically pretty patient with long movies, but at the same time, I can point out when a writer doesn’t know how to edit his own work.
If you are sick of seeing the same kind of movies in theaters over and over again, Boyhood is your kind of movie. It will be one of the most unique and thought-provoking films you will see all year or of any year recently. I applaud Linklater for attempting something different, and I love hearing that audiences are flocking to this movie and giving it the time of day. It is by no means your cookie cutter, run of the mill summer movie. Yet at the end of the day, it is extremely accessible and powerful. It doesn’t have that abstract stuffiness some indies can have over their audience. Is it too early to hope and predict that the Academy will shower it with the nominations and potential awards it deserves?
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? I absolutely loved Boyhood, and it will no doubt be on my best of the year list.
RATING: 5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS