Together Richard Linklater and star Ethan Hawke have put
together one of the most profound examples of cinematic anthropology – the Before
Sunset series of films, in
which a couple is revisited every nine years in a 20-year (so far...)
stretch to see how two lives have changed over the passing of time.
exactly be said to have eclipsed that series, just because those three films
are so amazingly good that very little could hope to surpass them. However,
with Boyhood, Linklater
has created a vision of time passage and real life that is every bit as
powerful. And, once again, Hawke is along for the ride.
filmed over a period of 39 days, but those 39 days were spread out over a
period of 12 years. Every year the cast and crew would get together for
three or four days to film a bit of the life of a young Texas boy Mason (Ellar
Coltrane), his sister Samantha (the director's daughter, Lorelei Linklater)
and his estranged parents Olivia and Mason, Sr. (Patricia Arquette and
Therefore, in a technique that is both awe-inspiring and
often shocking, we are able to watch a young boy age from first grade to his
freshman year of college in the period of just under three hours. It's like
an odd time-lapsed photography (or looking through other people's photo
albums) as we see the little boy lose his cute toe-headed good looks and
morph into a slightly morose but sensitive young man.
Not insanely much happens in Boyhood from
a plot standpoint. Just the basics: school, first love, parents, divorces,
marriage, moves, experimentation, babies, video games, new cars, new
friends, new Harry Potter books,
leaving things behind, camping, bowling, successes, mistakes, leaving the
nest. You know, just life itself.
Actually, the film may be slightly mistitled as Boyhood.
Perhaps Childhood would
be more apt. For at least the first half of the film, Mason's precociously
cute sister Samantha probably gets more screen time than her introspective
little brother. It's only when the situations of her life cause her to
blossom into a shy, slightly-guarded teen that Mason's story starts to take
over and she fades a bit into the background.
None of this would work, of course, if we just had some
Hollywood kid actor emoting for the camera. Coltrane is just a normal Texas
kid playing a normal Texas kid, without any pretension or precociousness.
Luckily he turned out to be a pretty natural film presence, or the film
would never have worked. Lorelei Linklater is also a fine talent. She
tries a bit too hard as a little girl (including doing an entire hammy
performance of Britney Spears' "Oops! I Did It Again!"), but she grows into
a quiet and profound actress.
Hawke has always done his best work with director Linklater
(they have done eight films together at this point, including all three Before
Sunrise films) and once
again his favorite director brings out the finest in Hawke. His character
of Mason Sr. grows astoundingly over the period of 12 years, from rootless
and responsibility-free musician to dedicated family man.
Thankfully, Boyhood does
not take the easy road of making Mason, Sr. a deadbeat dad. He is just a
lost artistic soul who takes a little longer to grow up. And even at the
worst of times, he is always there for his children, and even to a certain
extent for his ex-wife.
Speaking of the ex-wife, of all of the wonderful acting on
display here, the standout is Patricia Arquette as the mother. Arquette's
acting profile has dimmed as she has gotten older, and frankly she's been
mostly missing in action since her TV series Medium was
canceled a few years ago. However, this stunning, layered performance is a
reminder of just how much she is missed. Olivia is imperfect, she is
sometimes distant and she turns out to have terrible taste in men, but she
is a passionate and loving mother.
If the scene where Olivia breaks down as her son is leaving
for college doesn't wrench your heart, you really have none. "I just
thought there would be more," she rues, tears streaming, and every person in
the audience can't help but nod in recognition. Arquette's performance is
Oscar-worthy, and I hope this film is not forgotten by the time the ballots
for Best Supporting Actress are cast.
That statement is not just for Arquette, either. Boyhood is
arguably the finest film of the year, and it will be a crime if it is
ignored come Academy Awards time.
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 24, 2014.