Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Boyhood (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 08.07.2014 2

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Boyhood (Movie Review)

Boyhood (UK Rating: 15)

It's not unusual for a film to take years to make it to the big screen: it's a journey littered with casualties along the way. However, for a director to deliberately take 12 years to make one film is decidedly unusual. Not because of hold-ups, but because the director wanted it that way. What took him so long, though? The reason, though, is simple: Boyhood traces the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the age of six to 18 and, instead of hiring different actors to play both him and his family over the years, Richard Linklater chose to keep the same cast throughout.

That meant that once a year, for twelve years, the actors and crew got together to film the next stage of the story. Although this is Mason's coming of age story, though, the movie isn't just about him, rather one about his sister, mother, and father, as well, because the audience is watching them develop and mature over the same period of time.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Boyhood (Movie Review)

The film starts with Mason as an intelligent but dreamy six-year-old, living with his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and mother (Patricia Arquette). His parents are separated but his aspiring musician father (Ethan Hawke) is a regular visitor, doing his best to build a relationship with this children. As he grows up, Mason lives through his mother's other relationships, including a disastrous second marriage, watches his dad become a father again and settle down, and sees his sister go off to college. Then it's his turn to venture away from home.

The film has immediate novelty value, but it is far deeper than that. Not only does the audience watch Mason and his family change and mature before its very eyes, it also sees that 12 year span through Mason's eyes, complete with all the changes that are imposed on him - moving house, new father figures, and so on. Plus there are all of the changes that he goes through as a person, both emotionally and physically. Judging from this, many would feel that childhood is no place for the young. It is not so great for the adults, either, as they struggle to cope with it, despite having been there themselves.


 
There are no moments of high drama; no heroes, no villains. The closest to a traditional bad guy is the mother's second husband, whose problems are all poured from a bottle. Other characters, all of whom appear less than sympathetic at the outset, are sufficiently rounded to allow the audience to change its mind over the course of the film. Mason's father is a case in point: good-hearted, but feckless initially, yet settling down with a new job, girlfriend and baby. The responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood first time round simply came too soon for him - as it does for many others. It says a lot for Ethan Hawke's performance that he shifts those attitudes with apparent ease, while Patricia Arquette is equally impressive as the mother, continually trying to better herself and her children's lives and then facing her worst fear - the emptiness of her children leaving home.

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Full of subtleties and intricate detail, Boyhood is a beautifully crafted film. Absorbing and engaging, what makes it unique is its universal appeal. It's an obvious choice for parents, who will understand the dilemmas and frustrations faced by the mother and father. Its appeal is much wider, however: everybody has been a child, so everybody will find something in the film that chimes with their own experience. There aren't many films that do that, and do it with such skill. As comfortable as a pair of slippers and as reassuring as a hug, Boyhood never shies away from the realities and complexities of modern life. Beautifully made and acted, funny, tender and compassionate, it is a film to savour and absorb. Sit back and enjoy.

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Comments

Bucky (guest) 09.07.2014#1

I have been looking forward to this movie for a while. Cannot wait to see it.

I just watched this today with my wife and sadly, we both agreed that it felt like 3 hours of our lives wasted. If this had been filmed with different child actors over the years, there is no way this would have received the attention it's received. Slow, boring, and ultimately pointless.

The video clip of the guy that took photos of his child every day for X amount of years was just as engaging, if not more so since you didn't have to endure the annoying moodiness of a teenager wandering around like the world was going to end and everything was meaningless.

Wow, we sat through what was basically a low budget experiment that is SO over-rated and quickly forgotten about.

I'll be interested to see if the high opinions of this still hold strong a few years down the line.

Saying that, I can't take anything away from the performances of both Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (most of her screen time reminded me so much of her role in Medium!). They did their parts very well indeed, but the boy in question was so bland, never really breaking out from the emo-style, depressed teen angst nonsense.

I wonder if doing Girlhood would have been more interesting, focusing on the sister.

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