Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
Boyhood is the current frontrunner for Oscar glory and has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the best reviewed movies of all time. OF ALL TIME! So stop what you’re doing, and go see it, because you will be missing out otherwise. Boyhood is an incredible feat of filmmaking – filmed over 12 years, it follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to eighteen. He literally grows up right before our eyes, along with his parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) and sister (Lorelai Linklater).
Mason leads a relatively normal life (with the exception of one really shitty period) and so the film isn’t full of intense drama, but it is beautiful in its ordinariness. The journey through childhood and adolescence has never been captured in this way before (outside of home movies) and to see his development so tightly packaged in this way is breathtaking. I can already imagine the tears from some parents watching this – “they grow up so fast!” His transformation from twelve to thirteen (I think – the film doesn’t spell out the years and ages) is noticeable in his appearance and attitude, and as he journeys through adolescence he becomes a very familiar character. Some viewers have argued that Mason is a highly narcissistic, unlikeable character, or even gone so far to say that Ellar Coltrane is a bad actor. Surely this criticism comes from people who have forgotten they were ever teenagers because he fits the bill to perfection. He doesn’t say much to his parents, he smokes some pot, he kisses girls in the back of cars, he gets bullied, he has some D’n’Ms. THIS IS WHAT ADOLESCENCE IS. His lamo conversations with girls were spot on! Just go on Facebook and LOOK! Or read The Fault in Our Stars to discover just how lame it can get. Ten years into adulthood I’m still definitely a teen at heart and I hope more films like this will serve as reminders as I gradually enter senility.
The entire film is shown through Mason’s perspective – we get plenty of insight into the lives of his family members but only ever what is known to him. There is a clear pattern in his mother’s romantic relationships, and his own part in proceedings changes as he ages and his earlier powerlessness decreases. His father, on the other hand, undergoes a greater transformation, and goes some way to depict the ‘manhood’ journey that runs parallel to Mason’s boyhood. Mason’s sister Samantha is mainly there for comic relief initially, and gradually her presence fades – not perhaps surprising for a sibling a few years older. The brief tidbits we did get to see of Samantha made me yearn for a follow-up ‘Girlhood’ that would explore the trials and tribulations of childhood and adolescence specific to females (e.g. sexual pressure, body image, friendship issues). Here’s hoping with the success of Boyhood, that this could come to fruition. Unfortunately we’ll be waiting a while to see that end product.
It’s hard to assess the acting given the large period of time that Boyhood covers. Everyone goes through a huge transformation but this doesn’t necessarily show an impressive range in acting ability, just a natural progression across the years. Nevertheless, the acting seemed good as far as I can tell. My one question is: why did Patricia Arquette keep going back to that heinous short haircut throughout the years? GROW IT OUT, PATRICIA!
Boyhood is close to three hours in length, but this seems necessary seeing as that only works out to fifteen minutes per year. For that reason, it doesn’t get boring, as we are always moving on to the next stage. There are some sweet little indicators of the specific years by way of references to real world events, whether these be the first year of the Obama campaign, a defining moment in a baseball game, or the launch of the sixth Harry Potter novel. Many will be sure to appreciate a scene between Mason and his father in 2008 where they allude to/predict a future event which would have been unknown at the time of filming.
Sure this won’t be absolutely everyone’s cup of tea – there are no big explosions or massive plot twists, and it certainly isn’t for (US) Republicans. The pro-Democrat slant only made it more appealing to me, but those gun-toting, Obama-hating conservatives aren’t going to love it. But who cares, because they clearly have bad taste in LIFE. If you can appreciate a portrayal of a typical American childhood, you sure as hell will appreciate this.