Boyhood is a milestone in cinematic achievement. Director Richard Linklater has captured the simple, unadulterated poetry of mundane life. The feature achieves the spectacular. It provokes you to feel, appreciate, reminisce, yearn, understand, accept. Within a period of 166 minutes be prepared to feel overwhelming nostalgia, aching melancholy, simple elation and an inherent satisfaction that it all happened. Thought-provoking beyond measure, the feature is a cinematic revelation, an allusive celebration of life and family. Boyhood is perhaps the most personal, accessible film ever to grace to the cinemas this decade, hell this century. Emotional extortion and dramatic orchestration of events is entirely forgone. Instead Linklater has shown a modern audience that real life is already full and extraordinary and noteworthy as it is. Boyhood provides reflection, insight and simple showcase of the completely ordinary growth of one young boy. We can only watch in awe as we are touched with the familiarity, accuracy and honesty of its portrayal.
As with most of Linklater's features, Boyhood is uncontrovertibly without plot. Instead, lives are lived, lessons are learned, hearts are broken, memories are created, forged, treasured, forgotten and nostalgia runs wild. We watch the steady, subtle, entirely natural progression of a young family and in particular Mason Evans, Jr (Ellar Coltrane). We witness the growth of one boy's skewed vision and the significant experiences of his young life which in collaborative magic produce a naïve yet ambitious and insightful young man.
Linklater is perhaps best known for his "Before" trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. The series is created of distinct, conversational-based pieces, each flawless and notable in their own right - each a dreamy depiction of epic, compelling dialogue and realistic contemplation. The signature patience and blatant love of speech of Linklater's earlier films is not lost Boyhood, if anything Boyhood is extreme Linklater, just as The Grand Budapest Hotel presented itself as extreme Wes Anderson. It would be rather negligent of me not to address the level of unanimity in acclaim for Boyhood. This feature is simply the best received motion picture of its time and has been dubbed "epic" on numerous occasions. However, Boyhood is not at all "epic" in the conventional sense of the word. Rather, what critics are claiming to be "epic" is the film's ambition and the sheer scale of the feature, strictly in the sense of production length. Hardly ever is the production process core to a film's attraction but here, Boyhood's creative journey is its appeal and its distinction. Boyhood was created of one cast. Filmed progressively over the course of 12 years, Ella Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Lorei Linklater and Patricia Arquette age before our eyes. Linklater sequences the progression beautifully so that we completely unaware that an entire year has passed. Each chapter over that dozen years is captured effectively, concisely.
Mason experiences a slight of bullying, violent alcoholic step-fathers, drinking from a young age, an often absent father - but none of these things are the definitive feature of Mason as a person. Rather he is the culmination of all these things and there's a gratuitous truth to this statement. Films can often be passed off as presumptuous when they depict one event in the life of a character to have resounding influence on their life. It's a romantic, fanciful notion which rarely ever occurs. Boyhood is as far from fictional as any documentary, and gives its audience far more truths than any film in recent history.
After Ella Coltrane's flawless representation, Patricia Arquette, as the mother of Mason Jr, provides the most cultivated, accomplished performance. She's insecure, well-meaning, proud - she is every mother in the modern context. She shares a wonderful, affectionate relationship with Mason Jr as he grows up, made all the more appealing given its utter believability. Ethan Hawke impresses in his natural portrayal as an immature, overwhelmed young father, hesitant to accept responsibility and settle down, yet very much devoted to his children. The performances all-round are impressive images of rich and intriguing character, as endearing as they are familiar.
Boyhood captures the fleeting nature of life. It considers how, on reflection, its the moments we remember and yearn for in memory. The feature depicts, in spectacular fashion, how disorientated we all are in this life, the validation and sense of fulfilment we seek and ultimately the disappointment and acceptance we experience. There's a contradictory sorrow and delight to this intimate portrait of family. Perhaps the greatest appeal of Boyhood is its future prospects. I know that I will be able to revisit this film at different points in my life and that the viewing experience will change for me. I may not know exactly how Boyhood will impact me tomorrow or ten years from now, but I can trust in that it will be a journey of reminiscence and appreciation. In film history, many distinct, spirited stories have been told; stories of amputees, of orphans, of athletes, musicians, car accidents, natural disasters, forlorn lovers, mental illness, sexual awakenings, writers, fighters and dancers. But Boyhood is everyone's story. And for the first time, someone has told it.