When Richard Linklater came top of Soundsphere’s films of 2013 with ‘Before Midnight’, you’d think he might have been content. It became clear that with the release of ‘Boyhood’ he wasn’t at all content with just one of the most prestigious awards in cinema (okay, maybe not) but wanted two. Even though that was almost certainly not his motivation since ‘Boyhood’ has been in production for a full twelve years now, he is definitely in with a great chance of taking the much-coveted spot again as he has delivered a truly groundbreaking movie of tremendous scope, packed with raw, human emotion and a wonderfully astute examination of the struggle to understand life.
As with Linklater’s other masterpieces in the ‘Before’ trilogy, these themes are widely discussed and are intelligently handled with dialogue that caresses and cajoles and never feels exploitative, always accessing a certain part of ourselves that wants to know the answers to the very same questions. The empathy that one feels only serves to increase the value of all the talking, so brilliantly written as to emulate fantastically the real thought processes and problems that human beings must wrestle with to the extent that it doesn’t feel like an emulation at all, but an honest portrayal of growing up and coming to understand that even when you get older you’ll never have it figured out, whatever that even means. The fact that the film flows so well despite such a staggered production period is a testament to Linklater’s ability to make such an ambitious project as to chart someone’s childhood all the way through from six to eighteen work, and is added to the long list of things he should be congratulated for.
Ellar Coltrane is another of the many revelations of the film, cast as a six year old by Linklater, he grows in to the role and it fits him like a glove as we watch him become his character Mason, his life imprinting on his characters’ in a way that could only be achieved in such a mammoth project as this. He works alongside Lorelei Linklater, Richard’s own daughter, who proves herself to be a very good young actress as Mason’s sister Samantha. The two of them are supported by a brilliant cast featuring the likes of Ethan Hawke, who Linklater always manages to bring the best out of, and Patricia Arquette whose performance is the best of her career and whose character is one of Linklater’s biggest triumphs, a wonderfully complex and real single mother just trying to do her utmost even if, like all of us, she makes mistakes.
‘Boyhood’ is revelatory in its ability to tap in to the way one grows up from the questions you ask to the experiences you have, whether it’s a first kiss, a new house or coming to terms with the break-up of your parents, and marks all of them as valuable and important to someone’s identity. It even manages to explore the insecurities of older generations, portraying everything from alcoholism and the trials and tribulations of being a single mother through to the maturing of a fun-loving father whose decision to settle down a little is all indicative of the way life manages to sneak up on you and change your perspective. At 166 minutes, ‘Boyhood’ is almost certainly more worthy of your time than any robot action sequel of the exact same length, and is sure to be more fulfilling. Never has “profound bitching” sounded so good.
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