Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: "Boyhood"

I remember reading about Richard Linklater's plans to create a film spread across a decade back in the early 2000s, well before his film Before Sunset was released in 2004. Linklater has long been one of America's leading independent filmmakers, but his Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy puts him above many of his peers. Boyhood is another stunning achievement in cinema history. Linklater gathered a cast and crew, including frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, to join him on a project that would require a few week's work once a year for twelve years. We have all watched films where characters have aged through make-up or even through multiple actors. Now, we get to witness the natural progression of age over twelve years. Linklater was tasked with having to hire two child actors, a boy aged seven and an older sister, who could commit to such an undertaking. As Samantha, he cast his daughter Lorelai, who had previously appeared in his 2001 film Walking Life. As the pivotal central character, Mason Jr., Texas native Ellar Coltrane was cast. Seeing his progression from a pesky six year old to a college freshman is a revelation. There is something unbelievably breathtaking about watching a child turn into a man on screen. Many articles have been written on the creativity and imagination that went into creating this spectacular film, but my favourite is this Entertainment Weekly interview with Patricia Arquette. It perfectly encapsulates the themes of the film - and it makes me fall in love all over again with Arquette. While Boyhood is certainly an engrossing achievement in filmmaking, it is also an engrossing story about life and childhood. It may be a tad too long, but I can forgive Linklater for allowing me the experience.

Set in Texas, Boyhood tells the story of Mason Jr. and his sister Samantha as progress through childhood. Their divorced parents, Olivia (Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Hawke), go through many ups and downs over the course of twelve years.

In Boyhood, Richard Linklater has edited the film to seamlessly transition from year to year. He does not need to use title cards or words. The audience is allowed to watch four lives unfold on screen. It may be called Boyhood, but the film certainly tells the story of all four major characters. The focus may be on Mason Jr.'s journey, but I was equally fascinated with Olivia, whose choices put her family into many difficult situations. There is an honesty that flows throughout the film and I appreciate that the lives on screen felt lived rather than dictated. Perhaps this is due to Linklater not writing the story until he reunited with the cast each year. At its core, Boyhood is a very intimate film about growing up - whether a child or an adult - and we have all experienced growth in our lives. Imagine being able to watch your childhood as a narrative film. Watching Boyhood makes me want to go back and re-watch all of Linklater's film so that I can better appreciate his storytelling.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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