When director Richard Linklater comes out with a new feature, reactions can be mixed to say the least. Undoubtedly no one has heard of all of his films but when this director hits the mark, he does so in spectacular fashion- School of Rock or Dazed and Confused jump to mind in terms of his instant cult classics. Boyhood, unlike any film before was his most ambitious and potentially dangerous project to date.
While this may appear like your average coming-of-age story, the production behind this film tells a completely different tale. Actually filmed over the course of twelve years, the film shows the maturation of both characters and actors as it tells the story of Mason Jr. and Samantha struggling through some of the most defining moments of their lives. The quality of the filmmaking never shifts, remaining completely consistent throughout and the resilience of the actors in their portrayal of their characters is magnificent. There’s no stunting confusion as you ask yourself why this character looks radically different from their childhood predecessor.
The actors who portray Mason and Samantha do extremely well to bring an authentic feel to their characters growth. None of their actions as children of teens seem stupid and unmotivated; they capture the essence of what it meant develop during this generation as well as giving genuine reactions to immediate events around them. Equally Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of the children’s father, Mason Sr., as his low screen presence shows a convincing progression from wayward rebel to model father. Not to mention Patricia Arquette’s role as their mother, Olivia, who goes through tremendous up-and-downs throughout the course of the film, ultimately all defined by her struggle to do what is best for her children is probably the most affecting performance of all.
While this film may not sound like it’s for everyone, this ambitious undertaking plots the course of growing up in the generation that we are all connected with. Throughout the film there are familiar nods to experiences, cultural events, music, literature, and films that without a doubt, draw similar parallels to periods of out lives. Be it a simple one-track wonder from the likes of Gotye or the actions necessary in gaining independence and trying to carve your own path and individuality in life.
It is absolutely filled to the brim with recognisable moments of youth and equally or parenthood. Mason Sr.’s imparting of sage-like wisdom Mason’s first love, Samantha’s teenage rebellions, the ‘sex-talk’, graduations, birthdays, the release of Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince– the list is gargantuan. But all in all it’s extremely accurate with its snapshots of the various flashes of their lives. One particular feature that proved possibly worrying was that the progression of time could be poorly transitioned and confusing but in the end it became seamless, a masterful interweaving between the numerous focal points of Mason and Samantha’s childhood and adolescence.
It should quickly be mentioned that the soundtrack is nothing short of genius. While you aren’t bombarded with the chart-fillers of the past twelve years, what you do get are those subtle and just about recognisable songs, the ones that will get you to think what you were doing or what was happening in your life when these songs were grazing around. When a film opens with ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay it hardly fills me with hope for what’s to come but the following inclusions soon reassured me. The Hives, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, and for comedy’s sake Cobra Starship all make the roster, and all make a unique and restrained soundtrack.
It says a lot about the state of modern film that constantly as this film rolled on, the expectation kept building and building that something heartbreaking was lurking behind a corner. Simple shots of driving down roads turned into moments where fear would set in. Either that or that a film should be hyperbolically involved with another emotion, be it happiness or adrenaline.
But like a true jewel of the summer and of 2014, this film manages to avoid any feeling of this. It occupies the space in the middle. And while you’ll undoubtedly laugh and cry on many occasions there is nothing ostensibly and overwhelmingly tragic or comedic. Instead this film comes with something more humble, it comes with a true sense of reality.