Director: Richard Linklater Writers: Richard Linklater Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Elijah Smith, Lorelei Linklater Runtime: 166 min Rating: R
Richard Linklater is one of the most beloved filmmakers in the industry today, mainly because he has managed to tell relatable and charming stories that focus on the mundane, or rather, the little things in life. This focus has not changed over the course of his long career, and once more he delivers an contemplative account of the life of a boy. Linklater is making history with Boyhood, a film that is driving critics mad with praise. As for me, I firmly believe this is a venture that will heavily depend on the spectator and the things they are willing to take from it.
Filmed over the course of a 12 year period, the feature follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from ages 5 to 18. Through the camera the spectator is able to witness the moments that formed Mason as a human being, primarily the relationship between his mother and father, and the way they deal with family and love.
What I found most fascinating of all was being able to see Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette age with the film. Knowing both their filmographies it was interesting to be able to distinguish in which period of their career they were going through at the time. Both their acting was solid and well grounded, and their characters stayed constant through the years. This is vitally important because so many things could have gone wrong throughout the filming of the feature, but the end product was quite consistent and convincing. I am more hesitant to talk about Ellar Coltrane’s work as Mason mainly because Mason didn’t really have any qualities that would have been particularly challenging to embody, and while Coltrane certainly doesn’t qualify as a prodigy of acting, he also carries his role with consistency along the years. While watching the film I mostly pondered on the relationship the cast and crew formed behind the camera, and what effect the project had on their lives through the years. I like to think of the film as a project that hugely rewards the filmmakers and not only the viewers.
The cinematography of the feature was lovely, and the music choices also complimented it nicely, although I believe the music is a tad too recent to be considered nostalgic yet. Despite the nice acting and formal elements, it seems to me that this film is getting an exaggerated amount of praise. While I understand that doing a film with the same actors over the course of 12 years is incredibly risky and thus worthy of recognition, I can’t help but feel that his interesting concept was completely wasted in an over-done, completely recycled premise. While I am not trying to undermine the film’s dramatic moments (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke both command their roles), I just can’t help but think that relationships like theirs have been documented in cinema since the beginning of the art. Not only this, but Ellar Coltrane’s character is so terribly lackluster that the film doesn’t even seem to be about him, but rather about his parents. I have seen people argue that the wonder of the film is how identifiable the film is but…my entire life I have been swarmed with films about boyhood, and this film gave me absolutely nothing new to try to “relate” to. I won’t hesitate to praise Linklater for daring to experiment, but I will also not claim this is his masterpiece, by any means. The film is nice, and it certainly doesn’t bore the audience despite its 166 minute length, and if I had to choose between Transformers and this, I would not hesitate to watch Boyhood.