Movie Review: Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’
Have you heard about the new movie Boyhood? It’s out nationwide today, but has been in limited release for a few weeks.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview screening earlier this month, but with traveling and the general busyness of summer, I’m just now getting around to writing up some thoughts on it.
Directed by Richard Linklater, Boyhood was filmed over the course of 12 years—beginning in 2002 when the lead actor, Ellar Coltrane, was just 6 years old. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, along with Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelai, round out the cast as Mason’s parents and sister. At its heart, the story is simply about a boy growing up, or as Linklater puts it, “Time is actually the lead character in the film.”
Over the course of nearly 3 hours (my one complaint with the film is that it’s a little long winded), we watch as Mason grows from an introspective little boy, into a philosophical, artistic young man.
That transformation is fascinating to watch, along with his changing family relationships, even though by the end of it, I found I didn’t particularly like 18-year-old Mason. I was struck by the fact that ten years ago, I may very well have identified with him, his philosophical discussions about life, artistic aspirations, and somewhat pretentious outlook rang all too true. That really is what it’s like to be 18, in college, feeling like you’re finally coming in to your own, believing that you have life figured out. Looking back it seems familiar, but more irritating than endearing.
This isn’t necessarily a flaw, the ambivalence I felt towards the main character was actually part of what made it such a compelling and thought-provoking film. We talked about the movie for days afterward and I could go on and on about it still.
One aspect that sets this film apart from others which take place over the course of many years (Forrest Gump comes to mind) is that Linklater doesn’t rely heavily on newsworthy events to set the scene in time. There are discussions about 9/11, a scene in which Ethan Hawke rails against the Iraq war, and one in which Mason and his sister, Samantha, place Obama signs in yards.
But what signals to the viewer where you are in the decade is usually more subtle. Music is used to great effect, and technology gradually shifts, from Game Boys to iPhones. References to popular culture, like Star Wars and a Harry Potter midnight release up the nostalgia factor, especially if you were a kid/teenager in the 00s. (Be warned though, it will probably make you feel OLD.)
For more on Boyhood, check out this article from The New York Times and the trailer above. Will you see it? Or have you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.