Stripped of all the usual blockbuster tools, Boyhood succeeds as a thorough journey of intricate relationships and moments of awkwardness
WARNING: Contains Mild Spoilers
Rolling Stone calls it movie of the year, its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a whopping 99 per cent and the only three films rated higher than it on IMDB are The Godfather I and II, and Shawshank Redemption. Most importantly, it made it to number one on our top five most anticipated movies of 2014. Boyhood is a coming-of-age drama by director Richard Linklater filmed over a period of 12 years, meaning we can literally watch the characters grow on the silver screen.
The film isn’t what you would typically call a box office hit, and for obvious reasons too. It doesn’t have explosions, car chases or even any real plot. The main character is played by an unknown actor. There is simply nothing blockbuster about it that would appeal to the general audience. The movie is comparable to a nearly three-hour long documentary that follows the life of Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane), capturing his growth in seemingly random moments. Nonetheless, the film sparked joy among critics, and Boyhood producer John Sloss is so confident in the film, he offered a ‘Time Back Guarantee‘ for those who failed to be pleased with it.
We meet Mason Jr in elementary school and track his journey as he transforms from an adorable, cherub-like five year old into an independent man going off to college. Along for the ride we have Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke), who comes back into the lives of our protagonist and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) to regain some sort of relationship with them. Patricia Arquette plays the children’s mother, trying to build a stable life for her kids, which is constantly disrupted by her failed attempts at romantic love. Among family drama there is teenage love and loss, the societal pressure to fit in but the need to stand out, and some really, really bad haircuts.
Boyhood equates to flicking through an old photo album. There are moments you reminisce and laugh about, and others that make you cringe and want to hit your head against a wall just to forget. The film proves to be a nostalgic ride, marking time lapses, through the obvious changes in age, and also through the use of music, and the evolution of fashion and technology. From Britney Spears to Lady Gaga, and buzz-cuts to hair so ridiculous, there are no words in the English dictionary that could do it justice; we get to revisit the noughties all over again.
The critical acclaim of the film is aided by the detail of the relationship between the immediate family members, it comes across effortlessly natural onscreen. That may be significantly due to the fact that these actors had the opportunity to build a genuine rapport with one another in the 12 years they came together to make this film. However, Coltrane and Linklater’s interactions with other characters were at times verging on painful to watch, and it isn’t clear whether this is because Mason Jr and Samantha are awkward characters, or their inexperience in the acting world is far too evident.
Additionally, the uncomfortable viewing was enhanced by Mason Jr’s view on life as he came into adolescence. His conclusive personality was at times annoying and pretentious when he constantly voiced how he felt humans were progressing into robots, living through machines via Facebook, Twitter and other sources. Though Mason may have a point in his ideologies, it loses credit owed to his unrelenting reiteration of his assessments. Soon it becomes increasingly difficult to resist the desire to grab him by the shoulders and shake him while saying, “okay, we get it!” He stops being a philosophical, deep thinker with an interesting perspective on life, and starts being one of the kids you used to hate in school because they thought they were so much wiser (but actually more disillusioned) than you.
With all Mason Jr’s profound beliefs, perhaps the most interesting line of the film was said by Hawke’s character when a young Mason asks his father if real magic exists. Mason Sr answers his impressionable son with the best response a father could give. He tells the young boy that if he didn’t know what a whale was, and someone told him that there was a giant mammal that lived underwater with a heart as big as a car and arteries one could crawl through, he’d find that pretty magical. The quote captures the essence of the entire movie and offers a clue as to its success with critics. There doesn’t need to be a plot with vampires and wolves and super humans, there doesn’t need to be a cinematic spectacle, because real life with its ups and downs is pretty darn special.
Big movies are amazing to watch with their manipulation of reality through the use of green screens and visual effects but, at times, human truths are heard through the little whispers offered by films such as this. The film scores a solid seven out of ten.
With thanks to Stratford East Picturehouse.
Image from: http://boyhoodmovie.tumblr.com/
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