More than just a film of a boys experiences growing up, this encapsulates the whole families struggles making for a unique adventure.
Richard Linklater has become somewhat of an architect of american independent cinema, emerging in the 1990’s he has gone on to make some truly fascinating character pieces. The ‘before’ trilogy is arguably his most famous work, utilising two central characters falling in love and returning in 10 year gaps. Typically his work evolves around focusing on a specific time period to allow his films to remain very contained and he is often been praised for his acute awareness of this art form.
The hype surrounding Boyhood has been building ever since Linklater decided 12 years ago that he would slowly create the film with the same cast to create an authentic feature. Beginning with Mason at age 5 we follow his life and those close to him until he reaches the age of 18.
What is most striking about this film isn’t the fact that it was shot in a total 39 days covering a period over a decade, it’s the way the film touches on so many important aspects of growing up that not only takes it from a boy’s perspective but looks at how a whole family transforms. Boyhood covers themes of responsibility, in-dependency and relationships whilst entwining all aspects of mother and father hood that is superbly backed up by it’s brilliant cast. Recurring in his 8th collaboration with the director, Ethan Hawke acts as the dysfunctional father to Mason who yet still manages to give his advice on the world. It’s what Hawke is so good at, you only have to look at his past work with Linklater to see how expertly he can deliver short speeches no matter how trivial they might be.
Next is the mother played by Patricia Arquette some of her past includes working with Martin Scorsese (Bringing out the Dead) and Tony Scott/Tarantino in True Romance. For me what makes her such a great actress is her ability to blend into a character without trying to steal a scene, it seems to be a professional approach and that is a real quality to have. Obviously she plays a key role due to her bringing up Mason alongside her difficult relationships, jobs and simply balancing life. It’s a theme in the film that isn’t driven right down the audiences necks but allows it to develop in the background. Before we get on to Mason it’s best to talk about the sisters role in the film. Played by Linklater’s very own daughter Lorelei, she adds an extra level to the film that not only has obvious personal meanings to the director but allows an alternative view of youth. This doesn’t just draw women into the audience to remember their childhood but portrays the fluctuation that is a siblings relationship.
Finally the central character of Mason is played by Ellar Coltrane who interesting during this also played a part in Linklaters Fast Food Nation. Clearly he was given the chance to develop the characters whilst getting to know the director in what must of been a daunting and difficult concept for at that time a 5 year old. However this very idea of trepidation acts perfectly for such a story and it’s this almost fly on the wall experience of watching these people age that truly makes this a fantastic experience.
Once more given the special nature of the film any viewer equal to or older than 18 is able to experience all the changes in society, technology and culture during that time. In terms of a personal experience I am just 3 years older than Mason so seeing the likes of a Gamboy changing shape really rang true with me. Another subtle but important aspect of the film is the way it handles the different time jumps, instead of making it some overblown fade in fade out transformation it acts as if there is no real leap in time. How it gets it across to the audience is simply through adjusting the characters/actors naturally, whether that be a haircut or facial hair in mason’s later years.
It’s to be expected these days that Linklater will deliver on creating a true character piece that doesn’t dwell on extravagant camera shots, rather instead choosing to focus on the story itself. It’s no doubt an ambitious project but one that will leave it’s audience not simply enthralled but altogether altered by such an experience.