True story: when I was 10 and watching “Racing Stripes”, a thought came to me: what if a director filmed flashback scenes with children, and then finished the movie with the same kids when they got older? The idea never returned to my mind until I heard about the movie “Boyhood”, a movie filmed over 12 years using the same actors.
Directed and written by Richard Linklater, “Boyhood” follows one boy, Mason, from the ages of six to 18. Ellar Coletrane, who was seven when cast, portrays Mason, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play his parents and Linklater’s real-life daughter, Lorelei, plays Mason’s sister.
Just the production story behind this film is enough to make someone interested to see it. The crew got together for 12 days a year for 12 years beginning in 2002, so we get to see the young actors grow and the adults age before our eyes. There is so much that could have gone wrong, yet somehow it all went right.
I personally have some additional ties to the film. Since I was 8 years old in 2002, many of the songs and pop culture references in the film played large parts in my own childhood. Nostalgic things such as the Oregon Trail computer game, or waiting in line for the midnight release of a Harry Potter book were enough to bring a lump to my throat. There’s a part where Mason says “the best movies of 2008” were Tropic Thunder, Dark Knight and Pineapple Express, which is absolutely true and instantly brought me back to that wonderful summer.
It is almost as if Linklater knew how to timestamp his film, using things that are relevant, but never doing it to be lazy or contrived, like some films do when trying too hard to convince you a scene takes place during a certain point in time.
The acting in the film is superb, save for maybe the first years of the children’s lives (you know, because kid actors). Ethan Hawke gives perhaps the best performance of his career as Mason’s dad. He is a man who is at first somewhat distant from his kids, and is trying to connect with them but just doesn’t know how. Over time he begins to form bonds with them, and we see how tough parenting, especially when single, really is.
Linklater just has such a delicate touch with the emotional scenes, and has written an honest script, looking at everything we all experience growing up, from awkward talks with our parents to peer pressure. We all know Linklater is a talented director (the guy has gotten two Golden Globe nominations out of Jack Black), and he cements his place among the Hollywood greats with this film.
There are a few scenes that could have been cut, however I understand why Linklater kept them in; cutting them would mean an entire year of filming, and an entire year of Mason’s life, would have been not seen and all for naught. The movie does have a running time of two hours, 45 minutes but it never gets boring and rarely lags.
You can believe the hype: “Boyhood” is as creatively impressive and emotionally moving as they say. But while the scope of the film is massive and ambitious, it truly is the little, intimate moments that make “Boyhood” so good. Everyone, parent, preteen or especially 20-something, should see this film and will have something to connect with. I enjoyed the movie, even when it was uncomfortably honest, and I almost feel like I should be thanking Richard Linklater for allowing me to relive my childhood over one last time.
Critics Rating: 8/10