In case you’ve been living under a rock, boyhood is the newest film by Richard Linklater shot over the course of 12 years.
The film mostly follows the story of Mason (played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane) as he navigates life as a adolescent, a teenager, and a young adult. He is surrounded by a loving and supportive family; his sister Samanta (played by Linklaters own daughter Lorelei Linklater), his mother (Patricia Arquette), and his part time father (Ethan Hawke).
Boyhood is getting a lot of hype, especially leading up to the Oscars, partially do to Linklater’s gimmick experiment of shooting it in real time. (I clearly write these reviews in advance)
The film was originally titled 12 Years, perhaps this title is more fitting than the one it ended up with. (The name was changed so as not to be confused with the 2013 Best Picture Winner; 12 Years a Slave). The reason this point is worth mentioning, is because truthfully this movie is more than just a portrait of a young mans life over the course of 12 years, but rather a portrait of his family.
Many critics have said that this film was equally the story of Masons’ Mom than it is about Mason. But I’d take that one step further because his sister Samantha’s life was just as important as Mason and his Mom.
This film suffers from too much story, it felt unbalanced, focusing too much on Mason, regardless of the films title. The story that Linklater wrote often times feels repetitive and daunting. Many times throughout the film there was this overwhelming sense of doom within particular scenes, this led me to feel like something bad was about to does, but ultimately nothing happens. Not to mention, Linklater loves writing dialog filled with philosophy and life lessons, and ad Mason got older, the audience is presented with more and more life lessons. At a certain point as another teacher, mentor or family member give Mason more advice, it becomes eye rolling, as if everyone in Masons life has the answer, and there’s no opportunity for him to figure it out himself. As a result Mason felt flat and uninteresting, he was just a vehicle, floating aimlessly through the world for Linklater to share his words of wisdom through.
By balancing the story and allowing Mason’s sister and Mother to have more focus would have made this film much better. Of course then the film would have to be called Familyhood instead of Boyhood.
Overall I have never been a fan of Richard Linklater. For every one of his movies I like, there’s two I don’t like. And it seems the ones I do like, are the ones most people don’t. So overall I find him a little overrated, but I appreciate him for not only his love of cinema but also his willingness to experiment and try things no one has done before.
Making a movie with the same actors over the course of 12 years is a very brave move on his part. The need for instant gratification has to be eliminated, and patience has to take over. By doing this he most likely had a huge amount of unknowns… especially when dealing with kids who are constantly changing as they are growing up.
There were a few things that really interested me as a result of this experiment. One that stood out in particular is the technology in the film. If this had been shot in a traditional way with different actors playing the different ages, and sets dressed to look like 2002, (but shot in 2014) there would have been a lot of things done to made to look like its 2002. You would not have seen an iPhone in 2002… but since it was shot as it was, an old iPod to is was a new iPod when they filmed that scene. And to me that made things feel more authentic.
Obviously the story is really what bothered me the most about this film. To me, Linklater is not the best writer, his dialog is more like back and forth monologues than a conversation. Because of that, (as with many of his films) Boyhood failed to impress.
However, that is just one jaded critics opinion, this movie really is the talk of the town. Because of all this hype, I really believe this film could ultimately win the Oscar for Best Picture. It has already been nominated for more awards than any of Linklaters other films, and even one the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama. And Linklater himself also won for Best Director.
In closing; I do think this film and its director are very deserving of an Oscar, and despite my feelings I shared above, Linklater really does deserve it.