The film Boyhood, which went mostly unnoticed when it was released in theaters, is close to being the near-perfect Great American Movie of all time.
The exceptional way the movie was filmed, sequentially over 12 years with the same cast, may have been an experiment, but the wonderful cast come alive on screen in a way no other film has allowed.
This is not, in case you are wondering, the British 7 Up series of documentaries involving a group of non-fictional children over the decades; this is a fictional story of fictional characters . . . but they are people you know in real life.
Over two hours long, the story is told simply, without the use of cards showing the year the action takes place or the age of the very resilient central character, Mason, played by the engaging Ellar Coltrane. When the film starts, Mason-Ellar is six years old, at the end of the film he’s 18. Along the way you see him grow up, change voice, mature, and at the end even look like his on-screen dad, Ethan Hawke. Patricia Arquette plays Mason’s mom Olivia, and director/writer Richard Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, plays Mason’s older sister Samantha.
They all communicate and relate throughout the years where director Linklater, as David Edelstein put it, utilizes time as one of “the full, transcendent resources of cinema.”
Linklater wisely refrained from using holidays as plot anchors, instead focusing on the daily, the usual, which adds to the total effect.
You’ll find dozens of familiar things throughout the film, which gives it a true American texture: landscape, houses, neighbors, kids, schools, towns, phrases. Unlike the much more esoteric and pretentious The Tree of Life, which also takes place in Texas, there are no special effects, dinosaurs or afterlife; nor are there chase scenes, swearing (except for one pointed instance), nudity, or loud soundtrack. Additionally, the film is shot and edited seamlessly so it flows smoothly as time evolves. The aggregate effect is that the story is so anchored in reality that you as the viewer get an impact unlike any from any other film.
I won’t go into the details of the plot, but it will give you material for discussion.
My son recommended it, and I’m glad he did. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.