Monday, March 17, 2014



Directed & Written
Richard Linklater

     Richard Linklater's touching, hilarious and epic Boyhood is absolutely brilliant and may be his greatest feat yet. I am serious when I say this might be Mr. Linklater's masterpiece. A film that journeys through the ups and downs of growing up. Focusing on a brother and sister, mainly the boy, and going from age 6 until he goes off to college at 18, the film examines what life is and how it is lived. The difficulties of going through your parents divorce, moving, step-parents and the overall realities of adolescent life. The brilliance is that it never feels forced and revels in those special moments of growing up. Those priceless ones that are so important in learning the rights and wrongs, and figuring out who, and what, kind of person you are going to be. A film that is like none other, and one that Linklater should be so proud of, as should we.
     Linklater, as well-noted, filmed Boyhood over the course of 12 years, filming for a couple of weeks to a month each year. This is a narrative feature, but feels like a documentary, or docudrama. We witness glimpses of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister Samantha (Loerlei Linklater), age through their school years. You settle in with this film, like with most of Linklater's work. There is a lived-in quality that is ripe with truth and humor. Mason and Samantha's parents, Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke) and Olivia (Patricia Arquette), are divorced and the film focuses not just on the children dealing with this, but the parents as well. Linklater is one of the top-tier, intelligent filmmakers around, and just understands and has a keen, observant eye on life. This film is a journey through life. A simple kind of thing and what a massive success. An insightful, simple, touching look at life through the eyes of children, especially Mason.
    The film takes place in Texas. Shooting on location in Austin, Houston, San Marcos and Big Bend National Park, to name a few places, this just sucks you right in. Time is not just noted by the obvious aging of the actors, but by the music. Starting with Coldplay and going up to The Black Keys, and beyond, the music also takes you back to growing up yourself. Being in college and in my twenties through this time period, it really stuck with me and added even more to its resonance. Cultural references to the Harry Potter phenomenon, boxy Apple computers, video games and seeing the growth and locales of my current city of Austin, made me feel like I was right there. Especially the shots of San Marcos, where I went to college. It is a respect for how Linklater does not make anything fake or untrue. He shoots his film where they take place and it adds so much purity and realism to the story.
     This is such an affecting film. I could relate to it whole-heartedly, especially when Mason got into his teenage years. The not fitting in with the cool crowd, but making and doing your own thing. Working a job to get by and maybe not getting the car you wanted for your first vehicle. And learning how to date. Always a struggle and challenge, but fun and exciting. It felt so right. It felt so true watching Mason try and figure who he was and where he wanted to go. What is life? Asking these questions brought me back to my own life when I was young and did not know what to do or where to go. Wanting to break away from your parents hold, but understanding they are your foundation and support. Mason is constantly trying to, maybe a little too much, think of what it is to be alive and live. To be in the moment and take chances, but still realize there are responsibilities and a world outside yours. It was so riveting to see this young boy grow up on film. I mean, he really did grow up through this film a little bit. Mason's life was chronicled brilliantly and astutely by Linklater.
     I do not know what it is like to have your parents go through a divorce, but there is a genuine study of Mason, Sr. and Olivia's struggles with each other and in subsequent relationships. The beginning when Olivia moves the children from Austin to Houston and still is going through the recent divorce, is hard on everyone. Then there are her two marriages that fall apart due to alcoholic assholes that do not deserve her drive, love and kindness. Everything started off nice, but delved into horrible, dismal separations. She always had her children though. There is a very touching scene near the end when Mason is getting ready to go off to college. It will get you.
     Ellar Coltrane has that cool, reserved indie look and delivers a stunning performance. A smart, quiet presence, that appears to be wise beyond his years. An absolute stellar, standout performance. He definitely does not feel like an actor, but has the talent. I think that is what works so well. He is just being natural and himself. Nothing forced or unconvincing. Also a nod to Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei, who plays Samantha. A wonderful performance from her, with much character and liveliness.
     Frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke has delivered exceptional, career best work in the "Before" films, but this is the best work he has ever done. Hawke is excellent has the divorced father. He takes the kids to an Astros game and there is a great scene where he and Mason go camping. He is 100% committed and devoted to his children, even if he is not there all the time. Has he ages, we really witness the fondness and love he has for his children. Life is a journey for us all. He wants them to know he cares and loves them deeply. Hawke also delivers some of the funniest lines in the film and he shows how talented he is. Much can easily be said about Patricia Arquette. A great, down-to-earth performance, that goes through two terrible marriages after her and Mason, Sr.'s divorce. She is so strong and drives herself to become a professor at a university (possibly Texas State). A strong, powerful woman on screen and I loved every second of her performance. The acting from these two is mesmerizing, fascinating work and definitely awards worthy.
     Boyhood was worth every second of its 2 hour and 45 minute running time. A slice of life gem, that seemed so simple and small while watching, but after thinking about it, it so massive, epic and unlike anything I have ever seen. There is an intelligent, beautifully affecting quality to this pure masterpiece from the wonderful, great Richard Linklater. The acting is so amazing. I was turned on and melted into my chair with a smile and appreciation throughout the entirety of this sweet, funny and touching epic piece of cinema. Richard Linklater has delivered a film that should go down as is greatest to date, and that is saying a lot from his filmography. Right up there with Slacker, Dazed and Confused and the Before films. Profound, fascinating, touching, funny and an intelligent masterpiece. An absolutely stunning film from a brilliant filmmaker. The best of 2014 and easily the best at this years SXSW Film Festival.

Photo credit by IMDB.

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