Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has been 12 years in the making. Following the little, and sometimes seemingly insignificant, moments that make up one boy’s journey into adulthood, this is a film with a unique spirit and ambition. Shot in a staggering 39 days, over 12 years and with a particular cast, Boyhood travels across time in an original and captivating way. From the outside, nothing particularly prominent seems to happen in the life of Mason, the boy whose life we follow from age 5 to 18. His and his sister’s livelihoods are altered every time his father returns and whisks them away for fun weekends and their home environment changes with every new man their mother brings into the home. Mason is used to travelling, picking up, moving on and not looking back. What we experience with Maison is something that stems deeper than plot. It is what culminates over the 12 years and through the visible changes to the actors as time passes. Boyhood is ultimately about celebrating the here and now and every minute experience that eventually makes up life. With patience comes reward in the case of Boyhood. It is only once we reach the end of the film that we feel the power of its impact which only increases whilst leaving one’s seat and walking out of the cinema and back into our own little moments. Linklater knows how to construct a really great script. The dialogue is tight, clever and realistic throughout; delivered by actors who seem to grow along with their characters and colleagues.
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette appearing as their younger selves in a contemporary film makes for an unusual but pleasant experience and the real joy we get from Boyhood comes from watching the actors age. As enjoyable as Boyhood was, and as necessary as its 165 minute running time seemed to be, it comes from a director whose work has always not sat quite right with me. I think Boyhood is a great film but occasionally suffers from the American whimsy that I found so irritating in his Before trilogy. It comes from the same self indulgent areas of art where bands such as Bright Eyes and Arcade Fire can also be found. That is not to say that I think Boyhood is self indulgent, merely that its characters are. Again, that is not a direct criticism of characterisation. It is believable that certain characters in Boyhood would be self indulgent. Aren’t we all horribly self-focussed during our teenage years? I am simply addressing what I find irritating about Linklater’s portrayals, however realistic they may be. Placing my personal issues with Linklater’s style aside, Boyhood is a triumphant example of what true dedication to an art form can produce. It is a thought provoking tale that looks at the quickly forgotten moments that gradually add up; moving us from child to adult, boy to man and parent to mother or father.
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