Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” manages it beautifully, more so than any movie I have seen in years, and experiencing it was a pleasure.
Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, “Boyhood” focuses on a child named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who grows from age six through 18 before the audience’s eyes. It was a unique project for Coltrane and the rest of the talented cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Lorelei Linklater (the director/writer’s daughter), who round off Mason’s family.
Mason’s childhood is difficult, yet compelling, funny, and dramatic, like anyone’s life. He has loving parents, yet they are divorced, and his father is absent for most of Mason’s early years. What is most interesting about Mason, and Coltrane playing the character for his entire boyhood, was the audience got to experience the actor’s personality as well as the characters. It didn’t seem forced like it often does when other actors take over characters as they age.
To watch him and the cast age naturally as they made the film made it more believable. Not too many directors or actors would have patience for such a project. Linklater and crew deserve applause for that, although I did read that Linklater’s daughter grew tired of the project, and suggested that her father kill off her character.
There is no doubt that Coltrane is the star of this vehicle, and he is superb. To watch him in a role that begins as a young boy, journeys through adolescence, and finally becomes a man, has to be the best performance by any child actor that I can remember. Granted, he’s the only actor I know of that handles a role this way. Devoting years to the project, Linklater took a chance with Coltrane, and the others in the cast. His formula: shooting for a few days every year beginning in July 2002, and concluding last fall.
“In America in particular, we tend to ‘go big’ as storytellers,” Linklater says. “In describing it to people, it sounded so inconsequential in the specifics. Sometimes I worried that maybe it wasn’t enough. But I had to stick with that original kind of tone. I bet everything that these intimate moments over a life of 12 years would really add up to something.”
Ethan Hawke, a Linklater regular in the “Before Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight” series, is the perfect choice for the “Dad”. The character seems familiar, because he is realistic. He wants to be a part of his children’s lives, but in the early years, he searches for his own success instead. Patricia Arquette’s “Mom” is also familiar, as we watch her sift through many relationships and struggles as a single mom. She is searching for success, as well, but she also has her children to consider. That is true life. Every broken family may not follow this formula, but many do.
The storyline for “Boyhood” is good on its own merits, but because of its unique premise, it is a must-see film for any cinema lover.