July 29, 2014

Review: 12 Years of 'Boyhood'

"I just thought there would be more."
Richard Linklater Boyhood

Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater's twelve-year film project, Boyhood, filmed between 2002 and 2013, is a remarkable achievement in long-form filmmaking and cinematic storytelling. Filmed every year for a few days over twelve years incorporating the development of a boy's childhood, Ellar Coltrane playing Mason Jr., from age six to eighteen living in suburban Texas, the film is a true slice of life and both epic and intimate in style and scope.

What makes Boyhood so successful is how it is genuinely creates the life progression of these characters so thoughtfully every year for over a decade. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's long divorced parents visibly age and go through their own arcs as parents and adults. Linklater's own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, playing Mason's bratty older sister Samantha, is just as compelling (particularly when she's younger) with her own journey growing up. It's rather touching and emotional watching these children slowly grow up and become real people over the course of the three-hour film. All the performances are so naturalistic yet genuinely affecting in how universal they are as the film is just as much about parenthood as it is about childhood.

Cultural markers like music and technology of the time weave in and out of the film as a period piece by virtue of being released in the present yet capturing the past as it happened. Boyhood is also as much an evolution of Linklater as a filmmaker as he edited the film as he went along while making eight other films in the meantime. It's masterful in how it takes random moments of our lives to sum up our own human experience and living. Linklater somehow uses life's everyday mundanity perfectly, triggering our own ideas of growing up and coming of age.

Linklater even manages to execute meta-commentary on his own film and the entire experience by having Mason become a photographer as a teenager who's disinterested in documenting highlights or conventional images, far more interested in natural moments of beauty. Characters and people come in and out of his life as Linklater refuses to delve into typical markers or milestones of time as he explores the depth of nuance and truth in adolescence. This all provides for a rich, emotional journey despite some predictable turns and lack of conventional drama. It's this fascination with the passage of time that really propels the experiment of the film forward.

The film works on many different levels as a time capsule, narrative story, and exploration of characters rather seamlessly and sublimely. Using its twelve-year structure, it completes itself as a full cinematic chronicle in a way other films cannot be. Natural aging and the flow of time in its breadth and reflection is in every frame, mapping the story of personal growth cinematically. Boyhood is everything you could want and hope for from such a project and definitely worth the long wait.

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