- Richard Linklater, on Boyhood
Maybe it's a bit trite to sum up a film in the filmmaker's own terms, but that pretty much covers it. It's Linklater's grasp on his storytelling and craft that shines through in all of his movies, so it's good a place as any to kick off explaining why Boyhood, a film which was shot a little bit at a time over the course of 12 years, covering the formative years of both a character called Mason Jr and an actor called Ellar Coltrane, is so engrossing. It's altogether tougher to figure out where this review should end, but we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.
With performance capture and 3D dominating discourse about the movie VFX industries, this might just be the first film since the curtain dropped on the Potter saga to explore character-led cinema's most dazzling special effect- the real-time aging of the principal characters. Boyhood comes all at once, rather than in eight instalments, so the progression only leaves a bigger impression. Ellar Coltrane and Linklater's own daughter Lorelei are the young leads. From early on, they're very well directed so as to avoid Narm-ish acting and they each develop their own distinctive personalities as performers as the years go on.
We're also watching a 12-year span in the lives of older stars Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the kids' estranged parents. Credited only as Mom and Dad, we see them in ways that the kids can't quite comprehend yet, throughout the film. Much has been made of the film's portrayal of fatherhood, but Hawke's reckless dad intermittently misses years early on, leaving Arquette's beleaguered single mother as the constant. Each of them grows in their roles too- in relative terms, we start with Training Day Hawke and Human Nature Arquette and close with Before Midnight Hawke and Boardwalk Empire Arquette, but the more established actors feel just as settled into these roles as the newcomers.
For Linklater, it feels like an even longer span, working in near-secrecy on this project alongside all of his other movies since 2003 and the result is a real labour of love. Truthfully, it started to wear a little thin for me in the final hour, where the film leans more heavily on Mason Jr's shoulders than on his interactions with the rest of the family of which we've become so fond. Tellingly, the best scenes in the movie echo the long conversations between Hawke and Julie Delpy in the Before trilogy, with the camera dollying backwards to capture the banter, but there are familiar and welcome Linklater devices from works produced both before and during this production, scattered throughout.
Boyhood is now showing at selected cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Boyhood, why not leave a comment below? It's hard to believe that Trans4mers is the same length as this movie, but don't worry- we'll get to that...
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.