Film: Boyhood

The most basic requirement of a Film Critic is that they see the film before you do, thus giving you the opportunity to weigh up whether or not you’d like to expend the time and effort getting yourself to Westfield’s, spend a few thousand quid on two pieces of popcorn and a vat of Sprite and, if like me you are under 5ft 4, nervously await the inevitable arrival of the 6ft 4 man who will sit in front of you.

Well, you won’t get that sort of expeditious timing from me. I can confidently promise you that my critiques shall be delivered at least 6 months after the movie has been released and about 2 months after they ceased being shown in cinemas – quite some time to wait for an unprofessional review, huh?

What you’re about to read is not even a review. It’s just a love letter to Richard Linklater, because Boyhood is simply one of the loveliest, most touching films I’ve ever seen.

It made me want to be 5, 10, 12, 15 and 18 all over again, and not necessarily in that order. I found myself wanting to re-live those experiences – though only on the condition that this time, I wave a cheery bye bye to the spots and unfortunate hair dos. The first loves, the house parties, the illicit kissing in the back of the car, the first week at University, exploring what you think you might love most in life, and what interests you, the break ups, the make ups, and all the new people you meet along the way.

When Ethan Hawke remarks to his son towards the end of the film that as you get older “you don’t feel as much, because your skin gets tougher” – I realised that the reason the film resonated with me so much was that I was viewing it, at age 32, with one hand gripping on for dear life to my youth, and the other nervously offering up the other to adulthood.

Watching Boyhood enabled me to understand exactly what is so wonderful about being young, and that is the total freedom from cynicism. This is demonstrated poetically in a scene where as Mason packed up his belongings to go to College, his mother (played by Patricia Arquette) wailed that her life was over and the only significant forthcoming milestone would be her funeral. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly that transition occurs, from youthful optimism to grown up realism, but it was fascinating to see it played out on both sides, in the same family.

I loved how little the film relied on traditional, attention-grabbing techniques to keep the viewer hooked: there was no gore, there was no overt violence (though implied when Olivia is facedown on the garage floor having just been struck by her alcoholic husband Bill), there was no macabre tragedy – it was just real life, sometimes banal, sometimes incredibly moving. There were several moments when I thought disaster was about to strike and Mason would befall some horrifying injury (the scene in the abandoned house when they boys were throwing circular saw blades against a wall, or when Mason looked for too long at a text message whilst driving), but thankfully Linklater didn’t feel the need to manipulate us through the lazy means of catastrophe to keep us gripped.

It’s a sublime feat of movie making – keeping the cast together, and focused over a period of 12 years – and is testament to both Linklater and his cast’s long-term vision and commitment to the project.

Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane are stunning actors, and I thought I would share this little scene from the movie that made me laugh.

 

 

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