“I just feel like there are so many things that I could be doing and probably want to be doing that I’m just not,” Mason Jr. said.
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Filmed over 45 days within 12 years—from 2002 to 2013—with exactly the same casts in only 143 scenes, Boyhood is a real proof that Richard Linklater is not just an artist, but an ambitious auteur with pretentious work. Boyhood is a coming-of-age movie that isn’t like any of it that we have seen before; it’s an actual depiction of a boy’s life span from he’s being a 5-year-old plump kid to he’s being an 18-year-old skinny adolescence with avant garde visions. Simply saying, this Linklater’s magnum opus is an authentic life in cinema.
We have known Richard Linklater for his acclaimed Before Trilogy whose convocations are still warm even 18 years after Jesse and Celine met for the first time. Yet, Boyhood is something different; it came up with different stages of a boy’s life in a 12-years of presentation. Of course, many things happen, many conflicts collides, people grow, fashion changes, tears fall, and laughter echoes; but, there’s no fine line to connect all of them in narrative—as everything flows to where the (scripted) fate brings and shapes a small boy into an unripe man with characters in the end.
Ellar Coltrane respectively portrays Mason Jr., a son of divorced parents—Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke)—and a younger brother to Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s own daughter). Mason Jr. spends his childhood moving from one city to another, just as his mom lives with one husband to another. Although he lives in a quite dysfunctional family, truly, Mason is just an ordinary boy living an ordinary life—painting graffiti, playing X-Box, loving Harry Potter, and stuffs. Watching Boyhood gives you an impression of watching a semi-documentary biography, yet, everything is scripted and, not quite everything, is presented.
Boyhood gives audiences a meta-nostalgic feeling of how one feels during one’s boyhood (especially if the audience is a male). It’s an authentic portrait of life to shape someone’s characters, but that’s not all, it’s also a cultural portrait. Scene by scene, Boyhood presents milestones of pop culture from the moment of filming—every milestone works as time indicator as well as some nostalgic reminiscent from the past time. You can say that Boyhood is a time-lapse of someone’s boyhood with feelings and emotions as the bookmark.
To be honest, it’s very entertaining to see how Mason grows up as a kid, although some moments are quite uncomfortable for him (like his parents’ divorce, his abusive step-father, also his always-moving routine). Every scene flows like a river to a lake, quick and hypnotizing. Yet, everything gets a little dull when Mason has grown as a teenager and started to “understand” life. I feel so attached to this proximity; the moments in Boyhood juxtaposes with moments in real life—as a little kid, everything is fun although it’s not a real “fun” moment like we seize the time, however, when the childhood’s gone, everything’s full of boredom as the time seizes us.
It’s actually difficult to review Boyhood as a whole, ’cause it’s not something to just see, but it’s something to feel, to reflect, and to contemplate. With his very naturalistic approach, Linklater succeeds in making a great journey in cinematic experience, furthermore, he’s finally able to make a movie lives. True, Boyhood is alive.
Drama Written and Directed by: Richard Linklater Starred by: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater Running Time: 165 mins Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use