DIR/WRI: Richard Linklater • PRO: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland • DOP: Lee Daniel, Shane F. Kelly • ED: Sandra Adair • DES: Rodney Becker, Gay Studebaker • CAST: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Filmed over a period of twelve years with the same cast, Richard Linklater’s innovative Boyhoood is the first of its kind. The film traces the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from the age of six years old in 2002 to the verge of young adulthood and maturity. Following the film’s striking first shot of the young, daydreaming Mason, Linklater portrays his handling of key life experiences such as the aftermath of his parents’ divorce and his mother’s ensuing relationships, undergoing puberty, falling in love and eventually leaving the family nest for college.
There is no doubt in arguing that Linkater’s pioneering filmmaking idea is a success. This is because the use of the same actor to play Mason over a twelve-year period gives the film a sense of realism that makes it impossible not to become emotionally involved with his character. It is as if we are watching a documentary that allows us to grow up with him and to share his experiences. Therefore, the film is able to secure an emotional connection without the use of emotive music, opting instead for pop music released during the period of 2002 and 2014. However, it can be argued that towards the end of the film, the emotional attachment to Mason begins to wane. This is because his melancholic, teenage angst makes it more difficult to connect with him. Nevertheless, his quirky personality ensures that he is not completely deprived of his likeability.
It is also impressive that that despite the long filming period, the film still maintains a sense of aesthetic continuity. Clearly, the film was shot and edited with great focus and discipline in order to give the impression that it was filmed in a few weeks, rather than a period of over a decade. Moreover, the visual continuity also affirms Linklater’s status as one of the noteworthy auteurs of this generation.
However, the film also reveals Linklater’s development as a filmmaker. For example, instead of typically relying just on loaded, philosophical dialogue, he allows the characters and the long filming period to imply his philosophical ideas for much of the film. This is clear from the film’s sense of timelessness. In other words, it is implied that no matter how much music, trends or political frenzies change over a period of twelve years, what it means to be human and to grow up will always remain the same. Also, the character of Mason‘s mother Olvia (Patricia Arquette) is used to infer, without any heavy dialogue, that adulthood is only an illusion; no matter how many experiences and important life events one lives through, there is always that permanent feeling of being lost, or of not having reached the point where it all comes together.
Overall, Boyhood is a significant piece of filmmaking and a worthwhile experimentation on the part of Linklater. There are few out there who could make a simple documentation of growing up into something artistic and absorbing; it proves to show that with the right director, even the simple things can make sagas.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Boyhood is released on 11th July 2014