Starring: Ellar Coltrane (Fast Food Nation), Patricia Arquette (True Romance), Ethan Hawke (Sinister), Lorelei Linklater (Waking Life)
Writer/Director: Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused)
Runtime: 2 hours 46 minutes
Release Date: 11 July (US, UK)
Making a movie can be a very time-consuming process. It eats up your entire livelihood, exhausts your body and mind, but by the end of it you have a product that you can be proud of and show off to the world. Now can you imagine spreading that process over the course of 12 years? Well, Richard Linklater has just finished doing that with Boyhood, which he began filming all the way back in 2002. I’ve been hearing about this film for as long as I have been on the Internet, and the fact that the film has even been finished is an achievement in and of itself. But has this lengthy process been all for naught, or has all that extra gestation made the pay-off that much more sweet?
For a film 12 years in the making, Boyhood is a very simple coming-of-age story. Growing pains, arguments, romance, family, it’s all there. But just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is bad, and Boyhood manages to be a fantastically told interpretation of classic themes. It’s heart-warming and fun, but it never shies away from the real facts of life and goes to dark places when called for, making it also far more genuine that most films of its ilk. Considering the schedule it was shot on, the story has a very episodic feel to it, with each year have a beginning, middle and end that segue into each other quite flowingly. However, in between those shifts there does seem to be a bit too much dead weight. There are certain scenes and characters that feel inconsequential to the overall story and could have been cut without any major affect on the story. On top of that, I feel the movie had plenty of opportunities to end sooner than it did. Every time I thought the movie would cut to credits, it kept going and going with details that, while interesting, weren’t exactly necessary. The moment it does decide to end on is good, but by that point it feels like a good cap to an overall insignificant section of the film. Despite this though, the film remains engaging and well paced, mainly thanks to Linklater’s strong direction and writing. Whilst both this and the equally lengthy Transformers: Age of Extinction both overstay their welcome, Boyhood does feel far more worthy of the exuberant run time; it needs only maybe twenty minutes of trimming rather than an entire hour.
Seeing actors grow up over the years is something we’ve seen through a series of films such as the Harry Potter franchise, but seeing one grow up during the process of a single movie is a far more captivating concept. Finding a good child actor is hard enough as it is, but finding one who stays consistently good over such a long period of time is a minor miracle, and Linklater has succeeded in that with Ellar Coltrane. From innocent child to despondent teen to young adult, Coltrane manages to give a genuine performance throughout. The character of Mason isn’t always a likable one, especially in his later years, but he always feels like a real kid and never an adult’s interpretation of a kid. Similar praise can be given to Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei, though I feel her character progression was a bit wavier and near the end she slowly drifts out of the movie. But praise must also go to the adults, whose physical changes may be less drastic but their performances are just as excellent. Patricia Arquette hasn’t been this good since True Romance in my opinion, playing one of the most frustrated but sincere mothers put to screen; her final scene with Coltrane in particular being a real show-stealer. Ethan Hawke isn’t in the movie as much, but whenever he is it lights up. Hawke brings a lot of humour and fun to proceedings, and many of the film’s best moments are thanks to him. I was always disappointed whenever he left the screen, but it just made me anticipate his return that much more.
Boyhood is a simple tale told in the grandest of fashions. Even taking away the nature of the production, it is still a wonderful film that tells the story of a boy and his family in the most honest but uplifting way. Perhaps it could have done without some of its embellishments, but overall it works tremendously well and I highly encourage you to give it a watch. The filmmakers spent 12 years making it, so it’s only fair that you give three hours to experience it.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10