“Boyhood” directed by Richard Linklater is one of most accurate and extraordinary films ever made about growing up. Shot over the course of 12 years the director achieves something never before accomplished; capturing a child grow into a man, an effect that is incredibly rewarding. A combination of documentary and film style, it’s made with actors and a script in a way that feels unforced and real. Capturing a regular American suburban life without strain, it’s like someone installed a camera in your house and released the footage. The years of footage and acting flow together to achieve something unique, made with understanding and grace.
Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is six-years-old lying on a lawn, gazing up at the sky without a care in the world. As a viewer you will gradually gain parental instincts for him, a feeling rarely achieved in cinema. The impact of seeing someone age can’t be achieved through normal means of costumes or multiple actors. He lives with his struggling single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), they move from town to town looking for stability. Plot doesn’t play a huge factor, with a lot of the time devoted to everyday events like playing video games and camping.
Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawks) is an absent father, dropping by on the weekends in a muscle car to pick them up. His life seems on hold when we first meet him, yet he cares for his kids and teaches them important lessons. With glimpses of childhood we also get a sense of what it’s like to be grown up, with the adults leading rule constricted lives. Nothing dramatic really happens, though Olivia does have troubles with abusive drunk men who loose touch with what it means to be young. Linklater believes that life is spontaneous and that no one really has a handle on it, even the old and wise.
The transitioning years are done without being obvious, using music and news events to signify time and place but never describing emotions. Done without strain, there are some incredibly emotional scenes that work because they feel utterly real. Olivia is the heart of the film that tragically gives up her life to provide and love for her children; Arquette giving awards worthy performance. Coltrane plays Mason completely without dramatization as a normal kid, and Ethan Hawks also impresses as the father, showing his knack for comic timing and durable dramatic depth. And ignore the R rating, this should be seen by anyone.
Linklater has always been a fine director, releasing low-key yet quality features with a trademark humanist touch. This is his most accomplished and adventurous, discovering a way to use film technique to create a growing-up-story like no other. Using the camera for its ability to capture passages of time, the director captures life as we’ve all experienced it while validating the beauty and mystery of it all. Treating the film more like a documentary allows for a laid-back feeling that still resonates with deep emotion. This project could have been shaky because of the 12 year scope, but it feels complete. Breathing with the rhythm of life; it’s a beauty to behold.
(4 out of 4 four stars)
(Released: March 9, 2014)