Boyhood (2014) Review
Director and Writer: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella
Certificate: PG Running Time: 2hr 45 Mins
Plot: A family drama that follows a young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from the age of five through to eighteen.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a cinematic diamond that has been encrusted over time, withstood immense pressure and emerged as an extraordinary portrait of life. Boyhood is unlike anything that you’ve seen before, it elevates the visual medium into a timeless art-form. This incredible piece of work is a culmination of over a decade of tireless devotion from a group united behind a singular vision. Mason’s (played by a star in the making Ellar Coltrane) life unfolds before our eyes as we witness his growth from an innocent six-year-old boy into a young adult at the tender age of eighteen. Linklater’s script takes us on a trip where the journey is far more important than the final destination.
With the indie success story of last year’s striking Frances Ha (2013) and the much overlooked hidden gem, The Kings of Summer (2013); there has been a welcome return to the coming of age dynasty laid down by the likes of The Last Picture Show (1971). Boyhood is the definitive coming of age film that basks in its unrivalled authenticity. There is no baton passed from one actor to the next as the cast gets older; we observe Coltrane’s physical and emotional growth on-screen in real time. The remarkable aspect of Boyhood is that although Mason is the protagonist, one can’t help but be drawn to and deeply connected to the entire cast (especially his sister, Samantha). The connection breeds from familiarity. It’s as though we’ve lived life beside them constantly agitating for the right life choices to be made, deeply agonizing over the poor ones and riding the currents of change that swerve through this sweeping epic.
Linklater binds a series of unremarkable moments into a symphony of something far greater, those waiting for a melodramatic moment to intensify the dramatic edge to Boyhood will be left scratching their heads. It’s worth recalling the words of legendary Irish poet William Butler Yeats that ‘Life is a long preparation for something that never happens’. After all it’s that preparation that becomes the vitality of our existence.
Viewing life through Mason’s eyes comes with its own nuances. We glide through the years passing through the good times, the bad and collect memories at each distinctive phase. Attitudes and outlook on life evolve as Mason grows. Stages of time are crystallized beautifully by the American director: the innocence of childhood, the burgeoning confusion of early adolescence, the emotional and physical rigours of puberty and transitional growth into a young adult. It’s an intimate look at a period of life where character is built and shaped through life experience.
Mason’s family is a broken one that is in a perpetual state of flux, the constant upheaval in his mother’s marital existence expedites Mason’s emotional development. His experiences with his father (Ethan Hawke) and in particular his first stepdad (the professor, played brilliantly by Marco Perella) serve as transformative experiences. By passing the tests that a parent’s separation has on a young child, Mason is able to take the trials and tribulations of life in his stride. It’s as though he becomes immune to what life throws at him.
His childhood companion is Samantha (the director’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater) who remains constant in his life until university draw them apart. Their bond comes across as entirely genuine and encapsulates the love/hate sibling relationship that materializes in their late teenage years. Arquette and Hawke are tremendous as parents with conflicting personas. The former seeks to drive change and better her life whilst the father figure takes time to settle down. Mason’s relationship with his father is intriguing, the distance between them makes the heart grow fonder and as he matures so does their bond.
Mason’s passion for photography has deep allegorical meaning. Every photo he takes captures a moment in time,one that he can look upon with fondness/regret in future years. It’s as though he’s building a time capsule. We accompany him through the harsh terrains of first love as he explores the meaning of companionship and its tendency to desert us when we believed it to be forever.
The universal critical acclaim is likely to propel Boyhood to a position of prominence come awards season and rightly so. It’s a timeless, moving and deeply sentimental piece of cinema. Its value will only grow as time passes. Twelve years in the making but its legacy will prove to be far greater.
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