Boyhood: A Brilliant Concept Realized
Richard Linklater’s latest film is a remarkable and unprecedented must-see for anyone who has ever experienced the difficulties of growing up. No doubt you’ve heard about the concept of Boyhood, and how the story follows the progress of one boy as he grows, changes and develops into a young adult. Granted, the story itself is not so remarkable, however the fact that the actor playing the boy is the same person throughout the duration of the film is astonishing. The rest of the cast also remains the same all the way through the film. And since the plot runs from the time the main character is six until he reaches eighteen, means that all those involved on screen were committed to the project for twelve years. This level of commitment alone is worth celebrating, but what’s even more noteworthy is the fact that the film is good. In fact, it’s very, very good and is one to watch come award season.
Surely, there have been other films that have taken a great amount of time to complete, but never with such anticipated and moving results as Boyhood. From the very beginning shot when we find Mason (Ellar Coltrain) on his back gazing into the sky (an image used for most of the posters) we sense the journey that is before him. But how do you trace a boy’s life? Is it by the momentous events that happen, or is it through the every day happenings that take on significance only when seen in retrospect? Fortunately, in this case it is the later. Linklater and his collaborators (the actors themselves) have crafted a storyline that is familiar yet special in its familiarity. I doubt there is anyone who can’t relate in some way or form to the troubles of a modern family and the complications that arise as life simply happens. It is this straightforward approach that keeps Boyhood on an even dramatic keel as it follows its inevitable course, and the lack of trauma is exactly what most audiences will find refreshingly appealing.
Although the film is long at about two hours and forty-five minutes, I did not sense a moment when I was not completely involved with the drama on the screen. And even though the passing of time is noted in the growth of Mason and his sister (parents Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke remain remarkably unchanged – they must have portraits decaying somewhere) the impact of their overall growth by the end of the film makes a powerful impression. You will miss the children that they were and feel a pang as you realize they are literally gone, never to be seen again. This to me is one of the most lasting effects of the film: that the actor grew up before our very eyes and has emerged as a new person by the end of the film. I haven’t stopped thinking about the ending of this film since I left the theatre.
There’s a particularly moving moment provided by Patricia Arquette not too long before the end of the film that sums up the message of the story and subsequently the role of parenthood (which could be the alternate title of the film had it not already been used for a Steve Martin comedy). Arquette as the mother is about to be on her own as her youngest sets off to college without fanfare or much regard for what or whom he’s leaving behind. She is relieved, sad, angry and frustrated. This is it for her life with her child. What happens next? Alternately we see the same question cross Mason’s face just before the screen goes to black. But the possibilities are decidedly different, and the future far more promising. The difference is in the perspective, and the answer is yet to be determined. That is unless you consider this film to be a prequel to Before Sunrise, which I think it could easily be. As good as it is it has earned the possibility. Knowing that, I don’t see how you can’t but enjoy the experience of seeing Boyhood.