Movie review – Boyhood: A 12-year masterpiece

2014-09-07 15:00

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Film: Boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette

Veteran Texan film maker Richard Linklater said the following about his latest offering, Boyhood: “There hasn’t been a film like this one, and there probably never will.”

For those who know nothing about the film, Linklater’s comment may sound like hyperbole from a self­-promoting director. However, after sitting through all two hours and 40 minutes of Boyhood, it’s clear that the man has a point.

Shot over 12 years, Boyhood documents the life of ­Mason Evans Jr from the age of six to the age of 18, ending with him heading off to college.

While the title suggests that this is a film about Mason Evans Jr’s coming of age, it is also very much a film that tells the story of Mason’s parents and older sister.

Boyhood is about families and what it is like as a child to be tethered to a family through all the good times and bad.

As Linklater told the Brisbane Times recently: “Kids are sort of helpless. You are being dragged through your parents’ lives and everything else. That’s why I thought of this 12-year period: you have to go through 12 years of education, you have to live with your parents, you are kind of imprisoned in this grid and I thought: ‘Well, that’s the film; that is worth exploring.’”

Linklater says his original idea was to create “this big, long, time-lapse canvas about a boy growing up” but he couldn’t find that one moment in the process that would have summed it up, so he thought about doing it all.

So every year between 2002 and 2013, ­Linklater’s cast would gather together for a few weeks and shoot the next chapter in the lives of his fictional family, working together with the director to flesh out where these characters were heading in their fictional lives.

Although Boyhood’s back story is fascinating and as a piece of cinema it is quite unique, to just focus on this is doing a major disservice to the film. Regardless of how it got made, Boyhood is a touching and very real portrait of a boy coming of age.

As a viewer, you watch Mason Jr – played by Ellar Coltrane, a kid from Linklater’s hometown of ­Austin, Texas – grow into a young man without the regular boxes being ticked.

The first kiss, high school graduation and the prom are nowhere to be seen.

Linklater refuses to fall into these clichés and ­Boyhood is all the richer for it.

Instead, you get to watch Mason Jr grow up as ­American culture shifts around him.

The radio switches from Coldplay to Arcade Fire, America swaps President George W Bush for President Barack Obama, the new Stars Wars films get made and the Harry Potter books get ­published. All the while, Mason Jr is growing up into a sensitive and creative teenager.

Ethan Hawke (Mason Evans Sr) is superb as Mason’s deadbeat dad, who in the 12 years matures from an unavailable father into a dad who is actively involved in his kids’ lives.

Patricia Arquette delivers the performance of her ­career as Mason’s mother, a woman plagued by relationships with abusive men, and who is trying to do right by her kids as she navigates her troubled love life and career ambitions.

Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, plays Mason’s older sister, Samantha.

All up, Boyhood is one of the most astonishing coming-of-age films made to date.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys-mbHXyWX4

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