Director: Richard Linklater
Lead: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Rated: Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.
If you have not heard about Boyhood yet, let me quickly bring you up to speed. Boyhood is an epic film that follows a young boy from the age of 5 to 18. While that may sound very average, or un-noteworthy, let me add an extra kick of spice to this sauce. The film took 12 years to complete. Richard Linklater elected to shoot this film a couple weeks out every year for 12 years. He used the same cast for the entire film, no recasting was done. He also wrote the film as he went, paralleling the lives of the actors. In an interview for the film, Linklater said that sometimes, he would finish the script for the scenes they were shooting the night before they would film. Essentially, what this all means is that Boyhood is the most authentic coming of age film ever made.
I will start this review with honesty; Boyhood is probably the best movie I have ever seen. Obviously that statement is somewhat subjective, and it certainly does not mean that you will feel the same way. That is the beauty of art; everybody looks at artwork differently, brings their own life and experiences into account, and reacts differently. But for me, Boyhood, is the best movie I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of movies.
I have heard the argument that the fact that the film was shot over 12 years is a little bit of a gimmick. That argument in itself is somewhat flawed. In 1958, one of the great directors of horror films, William Castle, released his film, Macabre. Castle offered a $1,000 insurance policy to anybody who died during a screening. Castle struck again in 1959 with his film, The Tingler, where he rigged various seats in a theater so that they would vibrate during intense moments in the film. Wait Until Dark in 1967 starred Audrey Hepburn. At the end of the film, when Hepburn’s character breaks all of the light bulbs on screen, theaters were instructed to turn off the emergency lights.
Those are all gimmicks.
Committing to a 12 year production schedule and actually following through with it is not a gimmick, it is a commitment. Boyhood feels a little bit like a window into a life. Coltrane’s character, Mason, feels like a real person. Being able to watch him grow up in a span of 3 hours is an incredible experience. Some fiilms try to span that sort of age gap but rely on recasting their lead in order to age them, it feels somewhat disjointed, you know that it is a different actor and it makes it more obvious that you are watching a movie. That does not happen in Boyhood, you are given the most honest representation possible by seeing these people age in real life. It allows you to simply watch the story unfold without making it obvious that some time has passed. It makes the story more real, and more credible.
The acting in this film is really great, I will say that it didn’t start off that way. Some of the performances early on were slightly weak on behalf of the kids and Patricia Arquette. This is the part in the review where I compare the film to the Harry Potter series. The kids were sort of awful actors in the first couple of movies and got consistently better as the series wore on. They got better because they learned as the years went by and honed their craft. That is what happened in Boyhood. The actors got better, and their performances got much better. The film got better as it went on, mostly because of the acting and the writing. Side note, Ethan Hawke is a legendary actor, he is great in this film
Not only is this film an onscreen coming of age story. This film lends itself so well to what was happening offscreen and how the filmmakers were growing as well. Every aspect of filmmaking improved as the film went along. The acting got better, the writing got better, even the cinematography got better as we moved forward. We are not only watching the actors grow, we are also watching the filmmakers grow with them.
I loved the directtion this film took, it was great listening to the soundtrack which pulled songs from each era and inserted them accordingly into the film. I am very close in age with Mason so I lived those years at the same age that he did which was fun to watch and relive some of those moments. It’s a film that feels very real life, almost as if we are another character in the film. Like we are in the room with Mason and his family throughout the film, just watching them live.
It’s hard to describe this film as any one thing because it really is unlike anything we have ever seen before. Everybody should see Boyhood. 10 out of 10
p.s. do not let the R rating deter you from allowing your 17-13 year old kids see the movie. It’s all stuff that they are going through in their lives, no reason to turn them away for that. This is another Kings Speech rating blunder my the MPAA.