Officially feel ancient right now.
Starting from his early days as a trouble-making six-year-old, to when he’s a rebellious, deep-thinking 18-year-old, we see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) go through a lot of changes. However, we also see a lot of changes happen to those around him. His sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), does constantly pick on him and get him in trouble for stuff that he doesn’t ever seem to do, yet, at the end of the day, is the one that sticks up for him the most. His mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), is something of a dysfunctional woman just barely getting by – with her kids, her house, her job, her relationships, her divorce, basically everything. And last, but surely not least, we have his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), who isn’t around as much, but definitely makes sure that when it is his turn to spend time with the kids, he never lets them down, nor does he ever take their precious time together for granted. For he knows that, sooner or later, they’re going to have to grow up, take responsibility for themselves and most importantly, make smart decisions. That’s what Mason plans on doing, although, like most humans do, he struggles to always get everything right.
So yeah, I stretched that plot-synopsis out a lot longer than it needed to be. Because, if I was just being honest, simple and easy (which I hardly am ever), I would have just said: Kid grows up for 14 years, most of which, we see occur in front of our own very eyes.
Basically, that’s Boyhood for you all in a nutshell. It’s the movie that Richard Linklater and movie-enthusiasts have been talking about for years because while it seems like an interesting concept, one has to wonder how it would all play out. Would it be a gimmick that just uses the fact everybody on screen is growing older and older, right in front of our very own eyes as a way to show something neat and cool to us? Or, would it give us a meaningful, heartfelt story about what it means to live life, grow up, learn, and just simply be human in every which way?
Well, thankfully, mostly due to Linklater being at the helm, it’s definitely the later.
For most of you who may not know, I love most of Linklater’s movies. His experimental pieces irk me only slightly, but when it comes right down to it, and Linklater feels like playing everything simple, he’s an absolute joy to watch. Not because he makes good, riveting pieces of work that compel you to your final hour, but because the movies he creates feel exactly like real life. And I know that sounds hokey and all, but in Linklater’s case, it isn’t at all; it’s mostly what he gets by on as a director and though he takes a step or two here and there into some strange territory, he always finds a way to bounce back and give us an heartfelt, naturalistic story that feels like real life, happening right in front of you.
And that’s exactly what Boyhood is. All two-hours-and-45-minutes of it, too.
And yes, while I do realize that that’s a lot for some of you more testy viewers out there who are probably still getting over the near-three hour desolation that was Transformers 4, I assure you, it’s not that much of a big deal. It goes by so quickly and easily, you’ll not only wonder where the hell all that time went in the first place, but also feel sad that it is actually all over. Because, for the most part, this is the type of film that, from the very beginning, feels like something more than just a simple story about a kid growing up, learning lessons, and eventually being a man that he sets out to be. Nope, this story’s about something more, something bigger than just this one kid.
Linklater knows that life is precious, life is something to behold, take care of and experience to the best of one’s ability, and through this Mason’s kid’s story, we see exactly how meaningful life can be. Mason’s story doesn’t really consist of many things happening, except that he wakes up everyday, goes to school, eats, does what he has to do, goes to sleep and the next day, continues the same cycle. It may sound boring, but it’s totally not because Linklater finds this rather fascinating.
In a way, it’s almost like Linklater himself wants to allow Mason’s story be anybody’s story. It doesn’t matter if your parents were ever divorced, or if your mom went from one dangerous drunk, to another, like clockwork, but what does matter is that you’ve lived a life up to this point. It doesn’t have to be an eventful one, nor does it have to be one chock full of unlimited fun and surprises; all it has to be is a life that you’ve wanted to be living, all up until this point. If you can do that, then Boyhood is the perfect movie to see because of how familiar most of what you will see is. While that may sound generic and all, there’s something rather endearing about watching somebody go through most of the same events that you yourself may have had to go through at one point. It not only has you feel closer to the story, but also understand that most people’s lives play out exactly like this: Sometimes, things happen; sometimes, they don’t. It’s not like how they do in the movies.
Pretty ironic, eh?
But anyway, back to what I was saying before about the gimmick: Yes, it’s pretty interesting. Not just in the way that it’s hardly ever been done before, but because it’s happened in such a high-profile way that’s deliberate and ended up working out. And by “working out”, I don’t mean that they were actually able to cobble up all this film together from all of these different years without their being many complications added into the mix, but by how the movie itself never seems to fall back on that reality. Sure, we see the kid grow up oh so suddenly, but it’s never made to have us drop our jaws and go, “Oh mah god! But look at all that facial hair!”. Instead, it’s just how you’d see someone in real life age: Day by day, parts of their body start to change and one day, poof, they’re looking like a wizard.
And this all brings me to our guinea pig of sorts for the whole two-and-a-half hours: Ellar Coltrane. Though I don’t feel comfortable with necessarily calling him a “newcomer”, I will say that I see a bright future ahead of him and it’s all because he seems like a natural screen-presence – sometimes for all the right reasons, as well as the bad. When Coltrane is a little kid, he seems to be living it up in his youth, asking questions, interested about the world that surrounds him and just wanting to cause any sorts of havoc that he can. He’s a typical kid and it only continues until he grows up, graduates grade school and becomes what most of us all know as a TEENAGER. Oh dear lord no! Say it ain’t so!
Well, I will say it because once Coltrane becomes a teenager, things get a bit shaky; shaky in the way that Mason starts to become more awkward around those around him and more angsty as a result as well, but shaky in the way that this kid runs a pretty close line to being considered “annoying”. He’s constantly going on about some big conspiracy theory he had in his head; doesn’t know how to talk to most of those around him (especially girls); and just seems like he’s pissing his life away on taking photographs, but never doing anything to take them to the next level or step. Generally, we could see him as “unlikable”, but the fact that Coltrane himself is mostly the same age as the kid the portraying, there’s a feeling you get where you want this kid to just do fine and chive on. He may not always make the right decisions, but when he does, it’s like an easy victory you get in the pit of your stomach when somebody you know or like does something you want them to do.
What I’m trying to say is that Mason becomes our buddy of sorts, and for others, maybe even another child. So when he wins, we win. And when he loses, we lose even worse. It’s a push-and-pull roller-coaster of emotions that will definitely pull you in from the very start and it only helps that Linklater himself hardly ever pulls any punches in delivering this story to us. Sometimes, we see important changes in his life occur; other times, we don’t. We get glimpses and peaks into his life at whatever present time and it’s always interesting, because it always feels real. Nothing life-changing, or sudden, or dramatic; just realistic and natural. The only way Linklater knows how to make most of his movies.
Like I was saying about Coltrane though, the kid’s great and definitely shows that he’s able to hold his own with those around him. I’m interested in seeing what he’s got next, as I think this role doesn’t perfectly summon-up who he is as an actor, but will definitely be a stepping-stone of sorts for a bright future.
Also helping Coltrane out as Mason’s older sister is Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, who feels just as natural as being a child, to being a teenager, as he is. Both create a wonderful chemistry that feels like the quintessential sister-brother dynamic: She looks out for him, but knows that he can make her seem “lame”, even if that isn’t his original intention. But the one’s who really help this movie out to move and move and move as much as it possibly can without moving too fast, is Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their parents.
I haven’t seen Arquette in a role as meaty as this in awhile, and it’s great to see her back in action, because she is such a lovely presence to watch on screen. It doesn’t matter if she’s being mean, funny, upset, ridiculous, or crazy; she feels like a real mommy that loves her kids, would do anything for them and wouldn’t stop at anything to ensure their safety/happiness. Ethan Hawke’s daddy character is the same way, albeit more charming and full of fun. Which, I guess, is sort of the point: He’s the divorced-daddy that sees the kids every so often, and always wants to make sure their time with him is the greatest they could ever have. He’s not the best guy in the world, but he continues to try each and everyday he sees them and that’s more than enough. Not just for them, but for us as well.
Because, essentially, their adventure, is our adventure. Even if we haven’t lived it before, we are now and there’s an inherent beauty in that.
Consensus: In essence, not much happens in Boyhood, but that’s also another reason why it’s wonderful in taking everyday life, and making it into an emotional, compelling and always interesting epic that not only stretches the form of current-day movie-making, but changes our perspective on our own lives as well.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!