People say that it was a bold choice by director Richard Linklater to film “Boyhood” over the course of twelve years. I say it was bold to cast his own daughter as Mason’s big sister, who deserves a slap in the face on multiple occasions.
“Boyhood” is directed by Richard Linklater and stars Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. It’s the most insane coming-of-age film ever made. And no, that is not hyperbole, because Linklater actually shot a boy (and his own daughter in a supporting role) growing up for twelve years. Ellar Coltrane plays Mason Jr. and the plot revolves around him growing up, nothing more and nothing less.
It’s really hard to go into more detail, because the details do not necessarily form a cohesive story, just as life doesn’t. The script, which I suspect has gone through a lot of changes during the twelve year development of this movie, doesn’t help you either, because it avoids hitting clichés at all times. This film does not go from one first to the next, first beer, first joint, first kiss, first girlfriend and so on. It doesn’t give you these neat chapters. There’s also no “One Year Later”. Linklater gives you hints, a song, a new haircut or new friends, but the rest is left to you to piece together. This makes it that much more effective, especially as it almost forces you to reminisce. I am a bit older than Mason, but still I could see myself, my brothers, my sister, my cousin, hell, my whole family and everyone I know, somewhere in this film. I remember going to a “Harry Potter” event to get the new book by the stroke of midnight. I remember when I saw my first “Star Wars” film. I also remember when my sister was into “High School Musical”. This is how the film structures itself and it makes for a unique experience. It is the perfect time-capsule for anyone growing up in the 2000’s, which might make it less relevant to people twenty or thirty years from now, but for people my age it makes it special.
I made a joke in my review for “St. Vincent” about how bad child actors seem to be extinct, and this film proves me right, because Coltrane and Linklater are perfect. They play children the way Stephen King writes them (think “Stand By Me”), foul-mouthed, mean to each other and childish. Linklater has a particularly obnoxious scene very early on that cracked up the audience completely. In the early scenes, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke do a lot of the heavy-lifting as the parents, living in separation, but the older the two children get, the more they become their own characters, growing into their roles… see what I did there? It’s really fascinating to watch. It seems weird that it would make such a big difference when films have younger versions of our main characters all the time, played by younger actors, but it changes everything.
But the adults are remarkable as well, netting nominations in both supporting categories, with a pretty much guaranteed win for Patricia Arquette, who has to go through a lot in this film. We see her struggle with being a single parent, an alcoholic husband, a bunch of other stuff and finally seeing her children off to college. It’s a remarkable performance. The same goes for Ethan Hawke, as a father who doesn’t quite know himself at the beginning of the film and who struggles to stay relevant in the life of his children. It should also be noted that he has made about twenty movies in the years this movie was filmed in and still came back to the production and got back in the character. The same obviously goes for Arquette, who did a television series for a large part of that time.
All in all, it would be an understatement to call this movie memorable. The sheer ambition of this film is amazing and it is almost guaranteed that you will find yourself somewhere in this film.