Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Marco Perella, Steve Price
Written by: Richard Linklater
Running Time: 166 mins
Release date: 11th July 2014
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You’ve probably heard all about this already. A film that took 12 years to make, taking each year of a boy’s life, a snapshot as it were, building up to a complete picture of a boy’s life from age 6 to 18. Richard Linklater’s masterpiece (and I can openly say that because it is just that) is much more than just the story of a boy. It’s the story of a family and the decisions that are made, good or bad, that help to create a human being. It is sheer poetry.
Mason is a boy in a family made up of his mother, his sister, Samantha and his father, separated from the clan but allowed to visit every so often. The film spans his life as a boy, hitting all the major events from birthdays to graduation, from the parties and the friends along the way, from his mother’s bad decisions in men, to Mason’s own decisions in life. It is a chronicle of a family as they face the ups and downs of living.
The first thing to say is that, as Linklater and his cast have invested time in the project, so do we. At exactly the same length as the appalling Transformers 4, this is a film that doesn’t waste a second of film time. We literally watch these people grow up before our very eyes, an experience that has never been tried before and should never be tried again because Linklater has got everything right.
Using a stunning array of musical choices and occasional pop reference to aid us keep track of time, we follow the family’s journey as Mason and Samantha must watch their mother make difficult choices, returning to college to become a teacher, meeting men who, at first, seem caring and kind but who turn out to be inappropriate and the one person who seems to be the best for the kids is their own father.
There are moments in the film where sheer recognition of elements in your own life appear. Those emotions and feelings of first experiences: having to walk down the corridors of a new school, hanging out with friends, discussing sex, it is all here and laid bare. Even though there is no plot to speak of, just a series of events, you become transfixed by the occurrences.
The title is Boyhood and yet it could be called Fatherhood or Parenthood or Sisterhood or even Lifehood because although we see things from Mason’s point of view, it is how those who are closest to him help to make him become the man. His mother, skillfully played by Patricia Arquette, seems to carry most of the burden as she struggles to hold things together. She has the biggest emotional journey from career to marriage to balancing her family commitments with her working and the strain really shows in the final scenes. Ethan Hawke, as Mason’s father, is a much more relaxed and wayward character, wanting to share every detail of his children’s lives, no holds bar and yet he seems to drive Mason to where he wants to go.
Lorelei Linklater, Richard Linklater’s own daughter, is perfect as Samantha, being cruel, moody, intolerant and a girl going through her own changes. She, too, comes across very laid-back and it’s a nice complement to her brother, a breakthrough performance by newcomer Ellar Coltrane. to be laid bare and have your whole childhood up on the big screen is one thing but to make you care for him, root for him and ultimately emote with him is a hard thing for any performer and here he is magnificent.
What is even more surprising is that, even though it was filmed over 12 years, it was shot in under 40 days. A massive achievement for any normal film but then having the actors returning to their characters a year after leaving them must have been the biggest challenge of the lot, especially when Linklater refused to let the cast see any of the film until it was finished.
Warm, funny, poignant, tough and sometimes shocking, this is a film for anyone who has kids, who was a kid or who wants to hold on being a kid. Regardless of the lengthy running time, this is a film that will go down in history and deservedly so but what makes this such an incredible piece of cinema is that it’s also an incredible piece of work that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.
When you are standing in line for that robotic mess, look for Boyhood in another cinema and please, purchase a ticket for that instead. It might not be CGI explosions for 2 hours and 46 mins but you will come out a far better person and you would have witness true film making at its finest. I think I could go so far as to say the best film of the year. Extraordinary.