Boyhood (5 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by: Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, School of Rock, Bernie)
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke
Getting to watch Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane speak about their experiences working on Boyhood made the experience even more perfect. Nostalgia, maturation, and the development of people, family, on the screen shot over 12 years is an impressive feat, but if there is any director who can tackle this project its Richard Linklater.
For just over about 2 decades Linklater has been providing some of the most heartfelt journeys for audiences to experience. In the Before franchise we followed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they fell in love as young twenty somethings, talked about their regrets about missed opportunities as thirty somethings, and then discovered what it meant to be in their forties and in love. Last year Linklater's Before Midnight was also my first five star review of the year. Linklater invests in the characters, the journey, the experience. This film is conveys another journey, and without flash, the man uses substance to tell one of the most heartfelt films ever made.
Mason Jr. or MJ (Coltrane) starts out in the first grade doing typical things fighting with his sister, playing video games, forgetting to turn in his homework. In Boyhood we watch Ellar as Mason grow up experience the pain of his mother's (Arquette) multiple failed relationships, only experiencing his father (Hawke) every other weekend or in short bursts, and we see that this unique "lets the moments shape him."
As Mason grows on screen you see and hear the popular culture that benchmark his life. Linklater is intentional about the momentous Harry Potter series having Mason's mother read "Chamber of Secrets" to her children, and eventually having them dress up for a book party. The music plays as a transition of years, or as annoyance from his sister Samantha (Linklater) singing "Baby One More Time." There is also a Star Wars line in the mix which has become unintentionally funny since the film was shot. Linklater is a king of nostalgia, but also the king of foresight, blending the moments to shape the characters and to let stories unfold in subtle, but beautiful nature.
Watching each one of these characters/actors grow throughout the film process is also a treat, especially Coltrane. In an interview with The Guardian, Linklater talks about why he picked Coltrane, stating "he didn't feel straight." Arquette echoed these comments in her words tonight, Coltrane was a "unique, smart boy at the age of six." Coltrane isn't the typical lacrosse jock, but rather simple at moments while liking to play video games, but also a person who questions. Coltrane is fantastic as Mason, he breaths depth, life, and you feel as though you get to watch him grow before your eyes, because you do get to see Mason experience life. The same can be said for Linklater, Arquette, and Hawke.
Each performance in this film is a master work of understanding the human psyche. I was able to ask Ms. Arquette about her characters intellectual intelligence vs. her emotional intelligence. In the film you get to see this beautifully smart women who wants to do right for her family make them complete. Over the years you experience her stumble as she finds these men who will in her words "help her carry her family." Arquette is fantastic in this role.
Hawke on the other hand is a mess from the start as Mason's father he has had adventures in Alaska, and with his return he is the fun parent, passing out sage advice about love, life, sex and beyond. Hawke is such a charming actor, and is great in this role, every moment he was on screen I felt myself smiling, but that was the character's role. Hawke is meant to be the parent who shows up and sweeps the kids of their feet with baseball game tickets, and presents. Together he and Arquette have opposite roles in their childrens' lives, and each does a fantastic job creating their own journey.
Linklater has crafted the journey for family that is both poignant and funny. Linklater's blend of humor helps makes this journey feel real. Linklater is a master at humor from Dazed and Confused to School or Rock to Bernie, the man knows how to craft a clever story. Shot in 39 days and filmed over 12 years Boyhood seamlessly blends every aspect of the development of Mason and his family. Boyhood is the perfect tapestry, its brave, and flawlessly constructed. This is a film that will stay with me for the rest of my life.