Greetings again from the darkness. The trick here is to convey enough without ruining anything. No, it’s not a movie filled with twists and mystery, but rather it’s a journey unlike we have previously seen on screen. Director Richard Linklater is known for his fascination with time as a key element in movies. Of course, that’s obvious in his “Before” trilogy (the same two characters from 1995-2013), but think also of Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and Bernie. The passage of time is crucial in each, but Boyhood takes it to a whole new level.
Linklater and the 4 main characters have congregated and filmed a few days each year … for 12 years. We watch a fictionalized family mark the passage of time. You might be familiar with director Michael Apted’s excellent “Up” documentary series, where he reunites with his same group of people every 7 years. In Linklater’s experiment, we watch Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, Richard’s real life daughter) progress from adolescence to college age in under 3 hours. If you are a parent, you have experienced the quick passage of time when it comes to watching your kids grow. It’s incredibly emotional to watch a young, fresh faced Mason grow into a college aged young man right in front of us.
Linklater certainly got lucky with the two kids he cast at young ages. Their development and commitment to the project is the heart of the film. And if that weren’t enough, we also see Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their mom and dad through the years. Although they are separated when the film begins, we witness the changes each go through in their own lives. This is evolution, not creation. We don’t get a new actor at each stage, instead we witness the transformations of all four.
Patricia Arquette’s character is a solid mom, while at the same time attempting to figure out her own life. Her less-than-stellar choices in men have quite the influence on Mason and Samantha … the most dramatic being Ted (Steven Chester Prince) who sinks deeper into frustration, depression, alcoholism and anger. It’s a thankless role, but it’s a guy we have all known in life.
So the film is about parenthood, childhood, adulthood, and family relationships. It’s about the moments in time – the snapshots that become the fiber of our being. The shaping of people is an ongoing process and adult drama plays a role for all ages. As character flaws are exposed, choices are made that have a lasting impact.
The passage of time is relayed not just through the kids looking older, but also through the usage of technology, music and pop culture. All 4 of the main actors are excellent, but Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane are truly exceptional. Though the film is not a traditional narrative, it would be wonderful if both received some awards attention. They are that good.
A nod of appreciation should go out to IFC for taking the risk on such an unusual project. Linklater offers up an experiment WITH time, rather than an experiment IN time. Most studios would not be patient for 12 years, but their risk clearly pays off with something that must be experienced to be understood. My hope is that many will give this one a shot, and feel appreciative of all those involved for their willingness to put up funding … or just as importantly, their time.
watch the trailer: