I was very pleased to catch Boyhood on its opening day (Friday) at the Michigan Theater in an “exclusive Ann Arbor area engagement.” It’s amazing and impressive that a film like this stayed under the radar for so long (at least to the general public) until its release was confirmed sometime late last year or earlier this year.
The genesis behind the movie is now well – known, and so I won’t recap it here. I will add that the storyline achieves its goal of serving as a narrative time capsule of the past 10 – 12 years. Somehow director Richard Linklater had the foresight to offer lingering shots on various cultural objects – whether a Game Boy, older model car, Harry Potter release party, a bulky cordless landline phone, hit song from a particular year, etc – that the audience can recognize and relate to, or in some cases laugh at and be like “wow, I can’t believe I used that, or that thing was so common back then.”
From the very first shot of the movie, we are right there with the development and growth of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane. The film tracks the journey of, but never feels like a spectator in, Mason and his family’s growth over the next 12 years. We meet his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), his mother (Patricia Arquette) and his distant father (Ethan Hawke). The parents are divorced with the mother taking primary custody, and her career and life path initially dictates the geographical range of the film as they move across Texas, the kids’ father comes in and out of their life, As Mason matures, he moves into the more direct focus of the narrative, and the last third or so of the film focuses on his own development in claiming an artistic life and stepping off on his own – into interpersonal relationships, career development, and a new life in college.
This was easily the most humane movie I’ve seen since Toy Story 3, with its tear-jerker of an ending, back in 2010. And this film touches the heart in a similar and different way, showing that life is relatable in its small, poignant, important moments, and drawing emotional truth, recognition and reflection from those same narrative themes.
On an industry – watcher note, it’s fascinating to see known actors Arquette and Hawke age on-screen; we can chart their growth in individual films over the years, of course, but never before in the same movie. Meanwhile, Coltrane and the younger Linklater mature into thoughtful young people, with a reflective poignancy present in their earlier in life scenes. Several actors move in and out of the narrative, and I wondered what that must have been like to come back to a project after a gap, or leave it after a year or two of working on it.
The film offers a fuller view of Texas than is usually seen on screen. Linklater directs with a steady hand, never letting a particular moment or theme overwhelm the narrative, or the story to be taken over by sentimentality or something that isn’t rooted in realism.
Best film of my year so far. I’m sure it will be hard to top. I almost don’t want to see another film this year after seeing this one.
2 thoughts on “Boyhood – a tribute to and exploration of life”
Reblogged this on Theatrical Buddha Man and commented:
I’m grateful that The Maple Theater chose to bring BOYHOOD back to the Detroit area for one week only, having ventured up there yesterday for an encore viewing after first seeing the film on August 1 in Ann Arbor. The film remains at #1 in my top 10 list of films this year, and I’m not alone in that sentiment.
On this second viewing, I felt that the releateability and emotional truth of the story came through even clearer. I found myself focusing less on the technical novelty of the production, as I had noted in my August review, and more on the honesty of the characterizations.
A few examples of mirroring and foreshadowing were visible as well; it’s amazing to think that Richard Linklater conceived of and executed the project over such a long time span.
In closing my previous post, I wistfully noted that the film was “Best film of my year so far. I’m sure it will be hard to top. I almost don’t want to see another film this year after seeing this one.” I still stand by those comments, and this time I will take them to heart – I don’t think I will be seeing any more narrative films this year and just one documentary. There’s no better film to close the year on a high note and let the dramatic experience and strong story linger and resonate.
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