Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
Released: 11th July 2014 (UK)
Richard Linklater has been a strong voice in independent cinema for over 20 years both as a writer and a director. The two time Oscar nominee has proved to have great range in his output but never has he attempted such a daring piece of filmmaking in the shape of Boyhood.
Shot over a 12 year period, Linklater creates a world seen through the eyes of a 5 year old boy (Mason) as we follow him on his journey to adulthood.
Bringing together a cast that includes Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s separated parents, Linklater attempts the impossible by shooting the same cast over the 12 year period as we watch them grow as a family.
We are introduced to Mason as a 5 year old boy staring up at the sky in deep thought as he waits for his mother to pick him up from school. We quickly learn that Mason is without a permanent father figure, living with his older sister and their mother.
As a struggling single parent, Arquettes’ character is a ball of seriousness and frustration as she tries to control the squabbling siblings whilst maintaining a home and completing her Psychology course at night school.
We are then introduced to the care free semi-absent father played by Ethan Hawke as he pulls up in his classic sports car to take the kids on a day trip to the bowling alley.
Hawke’s character represents the classic dad that does not provide financial stability for his children but showers them with quick fix gifts and experiences that their mother is unable to provide. However, his love for his children is undeniable, showing a genuine interest in their development and a self awareness of his lack of life skills and emotional detachment that enables him to fully engage with his kids on a meaningful level.
What follows is a story that takes in all of the typical hurdles that face a young boy as he tries to make his way in the world.
It’s a truly fascinating experience to watch Mason develop, searching for an identity and a true calling in life whilst also having to cope with a consistently changing environment in the family home.
Linklater crafts an exceptionally rich and rewarding screenplay, with sharply drawn characters, performed by an exceptional group of dedicated actors that you fall in love with over the 12 years.
It would have been easy to go the route of creating an exceptionally troubled young boy and go with the whole kitchen sink drama approach, but at no point does the director attempt to cram in forced grit or sentimentality. What Linklater has done is merely to present us with ordinary people doing ordinary things, but where his film is elevated above almost every other drama that has come out in the last few years is in his writing and dedicated approach as a director.
There are so many wonderful exchanges between the characters that touch the viewer so deep that all of your childhood memories between your friends and family come flooding back.
The use of music and references to technology are also brilliantly handled with the writer weaving them in to the story perfectly as they were unleashed upon the world over that 12 year period.
To go in to any more detail in terms of action is simply not necessary. The less you know about this film before seeing it the more rewarding your experience will be. I fully intend to go back and watch the film again as this is a film where repeated viewings will reveal so much more.
Boyhood will no doubt go down as a classic, one of those rare experiments that could so easily have been a failure but instead results in something profound, a story where characters quite literally change before your eyes without the need for contrived scripting.
It must have been truly incredible to be part of this unique film both as an actor and as a crew member. All of these people must have changed so much in their personal lives over the 12 year period which only enhances your experience in seeing them change up on the screen.
If you are looking for a piece of art that reminds you just how frustrating, daunting but beautiful life can be then I urge to go and experience the wonder that is Boyhood.