There are certain films that are so unique and special, you know it ten or fifteen minutes into the movie. “Boyhood” is one of those films. Richard Linklater has brought to the screen an amazing film that is so effortless and enjoyable to watch that it doesn’t seem it’s almost three-hours long. The film is about a young family that when we first meet them, they are going through the painful separation of a husband (Ethan Hawke) and his wife (Patricia Arquette). The dad showed up unexpectedly after a lengthy absence (“He’s been working in Alaska”), surprising his young 6-year-old son, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and 8-year-old daughter, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). The kids are hopeful that their parents are getting back together, but that is soon quashed as the two parents quickly get into an argument on the sidewalk outside of the family’s apartment. The hope, then pain is shown on the kids faces as they watch the unfolding argument happen below their bedroom window. This scene flawlessly develops, and it’s a perfect example on how this film takes small moments in time to let us understand where the characters are in their lives.
As the audience, we get to experience four people grow up. The parents, who married too young, go their separate ways, make mistakes in their relationships and eventually find their place in the world. We see how each parent matures and deals with each other and the kids. The two kids who go from elementary school to enrolling in college. Normally, in a film like this, you would use different actors to play the parts at different times in their lives. Then you would use makeup and hairstyles to show the parents growing older as the film moved along. In Linklater’ s film, we see as the parents turn into two adults in their mid-forties, their bodies changing as they get older. We see the kids in all stages of childhood to early adulthood. It’s an amazing viewing experience and adds greatly to the feeling of watching the small pieces of time go by.
Another remarkable aspect about this film is the marking of time through both technology and in cultural events. In a normal film, shot over approximately six months, the filmmakers would probably make more of a spectacle of say a smartphone being introduced to the public, making sure that the audience noticed the product and how important it was to the culture at the time. In this film, not knowing what was going to be popular or going to last, Linklater just lets technology be a part of their everyday lives. It permits the audience to concentrate on what is happening to the characters, allowing us to stay in the moment.
While there are a couple of groundbreaking moments in the film, the film is filled mostly with smaller moments. How you interact with the other kids in a new school, the pain of moving away from your friends, the relationships you form in your first job, seeing your mom flirt with someone other than your dad. These are all moments in this film that define its characters and allow us to experience the wonder of growing up. There were several times in the film, when I was waiting for something big to happen, and instead was relieved and surprised when that major event did not occur. It’s an accumulation of smaller events that shape the film’s characters, just like what happens in real life.
The four principle actors in this film do a remarkable job. Early on its Lorelei Linklater, as Sam, that dominates the action. She shines on the screen, interacting with the others with almost dominating presence. She is the more outgoing of the two kids, as Ellar Coltrane plays more of the quiet and retrospective child of the family. As the film moves along, she begins to take a backseat to Coltrane’s performance, becoming more of a supporting character as we get to know more and more about Mason. I really enjoyed Ethan Hawke’s performance as the father who starts shirking his parental duties and then grows into the man his kids need. While Hawke didn’t age too much in his appearance (present day Hawke is still pretty darn boyish), I enjoyed his character’s growth, and I think it’s due to in part Hawke’s maturing as an actor. Arquette is the perfect choice for the role of a young woman who grows into being the matron of the family. She is wonderful in the role, bringing a toughness, yet vulnerability to the role that fit the character of the mom. Arquette lets us see the pain of her character as the mom trying to figure out how to survive with two kids on her own.
Coltrane, playing Mason is the anchor and focus of the film. It’s quite an experience to see a young boy grow into a man right before your eyes. I felt that early on, as an actor, his inexperience showed on the screen but as the years went on. He became more comfortable in the part, and I think, also in real life, more relaxed in his own appearance, as most teens do. It’s remarkable how much as a young adult he looks like Ethan Hawke, not only in his body type but how he carries himself in on the screen.
It’s a remarkable film to watch and is truly one of great experiences I have had in the cinema. Linklater has done an impressive job of making a film that is consistent in its quality from start to finish. Think about how the technology of film has changed in the last ten years, but the movie has the same look and feel throughout. What does change are the people in the film and how we feel about them as they grow older. Like your own family members through the years, your opinion of these characters change that they grow older and evolve, some for the better, some for the worse. Linklater has made a film that is an amazing work of art and one to savor as you watch time move across the screen. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Boyhood” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art CinemaFollow @PreviewThis