An Oscar magnet from its initial birth Richard Linklater’s 12 year-in-the-making film is a triumph and a ground breaking film in terms of its production, and getting experimental film into the forefront of Hollywood.
The story follows the life of Mason, portrayed by Ellar Coltrane, who along with his character begins the film as a wide eyed, pre-pubescent 7 year old and literally grows up on screen before our eyes, and ends the film as a deep voiced, somewhat less podgy 18 year old. We get to experience Mason’s family life through his eyes, and his family is at the least dysfunctional. When we meet Mason and his family in 2002, his father (Ethan Hawke) has left the family behind and has left for Alaska, and his mother (Patricia Arquette) seems to be transcending through an emotional crisis, believing her life is being wasted. Throughout the film we see the ins and outs of Mason’s dysfunctional family life, but more of his coming of age over time; making Boyhood a brand new, extremely successful take on a coming-of-age film.
Most films seem to struggle with the concept of time, skipping over years, months, and days of a characters life and we are left to question what happened and what they got up to in those times. Yet Boyhood bypassed this completely, Linklater treats time as one of the most important aspect of the film. Obviously, this is helped by the fact it was filmed over 12 years and so it has the same time-span as the film itself, but with careful consideration during the editing process we get to see the things we ache to see, the simple things that most films tend to miss, such as family dinners; memories we cherish ourselves from our childhood. At the time they may seem mundane and quotidian to say the least, but they are the things that shape us as humans.
We also see the world grow around the family, the world we have lived through for the past 12 years the characters have too, touching on the Iraq war, and the advancement of technology, we can more empathise with the characters and see them as part of our world. Even though Boyhood isn’t technically a Documentary, Linklater’s aim to make it seem as one is aided by this link with our world and our reality.
Coltrane’s performance is beautiful as he doesn’t even seem to be acting, but simply reacting, he seems to be himself in the character of Mason, and whether that is or not we don’t know, but it’s a wonderful and extremely memorable breakthrough for him as an actor. His performance is extremely believable, with his dialogue consisting of the typical teenage ‘whatever’ and ‘I guess’, this may seem to create a rather bland script, but it’s real, again aiding its documentary-esque style.
Boyhood is an overall wonderful portrayal of real life and coming-of-age. An excellent example of how to experiment with cinema to great success.
What did you think of Boyhood?
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