Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a tremendous achievement in filmmaking, one of the most intimate studies of childhood I’ve seen. The film, shot since 2002, centers on Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a 5-year old boy at the beginning of the film who ages over the years to be an 18-year old adult by the film’s conclusion. Chronicling his trouble in a divorced home, he lives with his mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), and sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), as the former attempts to find a stable home for her children without a father. Their birth father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), is a fun-loving man who cannot take responsibility for his actions; the details that emerge near the film’s end about the pregnancy that led to the children is natural and believable. These are flawed human beings that grow over the feature, both literally and characteristically, and each are deserving of their own narratives. Yet they all occupy Linklater’s 165-minute film.
Linklater remains one of the great humanistic voices in modern film, having tackled the greatest romance in the history of the movies with the Before trilogy and mixing independent and mainstream films with ease. What he’s able to do here and done before is address the most relatable issues in life as if they are new and perfectly adjusted to the characters. He has Mason deal with peer pressure and bullying with single scenes, Olivia handle the struggle of children growing up in a broken home along with spouses and their drinking problems, and Mason Sr. with children that he rarely sees and an immaturity that constantly nags at him. The film progresses methodically and at its own whim, and the performances are stellar. Hawke and Arquette look young and vibrant in the beginning and matured and stable by the conclusion. And Coltrane is an astute actor that feels like he sincerely grew up on screen. The film also works as a terrific time capsule of the 2000s, with a soundtrack that hits the right notes of the decade. Boyhood works for me because I feel like I watched some of myself grow up on screen, and it’s a great depiction of maturation.
Grade: ★★★★½ (out of 5)
Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all of our movies suck…Pixar ﬁlms are not good at ﬁrst, and our job is to make them so—to go, as I say, “from suck to not-suck.”
Think about how easy it would be for a movie about talking toys to feel derivative, sappy, or overtly merchandise driven. Think about how off-putting a movie about rats preparing food could be, or how risky it must’ve seemed to start WALL-E with 39 dialogue-free minutes. We dare to attempt these stories, but we don’t get them right on the ﬁrst pass. This is as it should be. Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process—reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a ﬂawed story ﬁnds its through line or a hollow character ﬁnds its soul.
“When you are young not much matters, when you find something you like that’s all you got.”
Kids (1995) dir. Larry Clark
Gabriel García Márquez (via psychotherapy)