Boyhood (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Richard Linklater brings us Boyhood, the film that took twelve years to make, and three hours to tell. Linklater and his cast and crew managed to keep their project secret for many years, and it wasn’t until the film was nearing completion that they announced their creative and unique feat. The film industry flipped. While it is new and exciting, unfortunately, that’s all that is drawing a crowd, and the ‘story’ element suffers.

The film focuses on Mason (Ellar Coltrane). He is a typical American kid – even having blonde hair and blue eyes – and this is the story of his years from five to eighteen. He and his family unite and struggle through breakups, birthdays, good times and bad times. Mason literally grows before our eyes, and we are reminded of our own childhood in the process. To ‘landmark’ the years, Linklater makes many references – such as the Harry Potter phenomenon. This connection to real-life further grounds the film, and connects our experiences to those of the characters.

Boyhood was written and directed by Richard Linklater, who once again plays with the element of time. His past works have predominately been set within the span of one day, though still meander without much plot, with the character’s development driving the action. Special assurances also had to be made to ensure that in the event Linklater died during the twelve years of production, Ethan Hawke (Mason’s father and past collaborator with the creator) would take-over the directing responsibility.

All of the performances were beautiful – both from lead and secondary characters – and it’s amazing to think that their entire progress was created so many years ago. For such young actors (Mason’s sister is even played by Linklater’s new-comer daughter, Lorelei) to understand and portray their characters so well for so long, shows they have what it takes to have bright film careers.

With the art of filmmaking changing throughout the years, Linklater had to find and maintain his style for the whole duration of the production. The camera remains quite static, with quick cuts to the speakers. This gives it less of a film-feel, and more like a documentary. The action and dialogue also feel less strict, and don’t seem to follow a script, being so realistic in nature.

The film has had its ups and downs with critics and audiences, going from 1-out-of-10 ratings, to 10-out-of-10 ratings and winning awards. For the most part, Boyhood is commended for its unique process, while others can’t help but look past that to the obvious lack of story and therefore find the 3 hour run-time too much to bear.

There seems to be no middle-ground with opinions on this film, you either love it, or you hate it. While it’s true it could have had more of a story, I appreciate a filmmaker trying something new, instead of remaking an old product. Either way, it is going to be talked about for many years to come.

4 out of 5 stars

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