“Try harder. Hey, maybe in 20 years you can call old Mr. Turlington, and you can say: “Thank you, sir, for that terrific darkroom chat we had that day”.“
BOYHOOD follows a 6 years old Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) over the span of 12 years, from 2002 to 2013, until he become a 18 years old, high school graduate. It examines his process of growing up as well as seeing how people around him interacts with each other and also to him.
The film received so much rave considering its method to shot as the characters grew up in real life, spanning over 12 years with 39 shooting days scattered among them. I don’t really understand why this becomes a hook of the film itself (some marketing promos even making it a tagline as a ’12 years epic’. Similar method were often used in documentary features (including Up series, Steve James’ Hoop Dreams, etc) as well as feature films whether it spans over several (which date back to Truffaut’s The Adventure of Antoine Doinel -which begins with his debut feature Les Quatre Cents Coups). What really made Boyhood special, at least for me, was how it incorporated iconic, globally-recognized, pop culture items and moments (from Harry Potter to Lady Gaga to Obama campaign) as a way to connect with us the audience. What Mason experience were also experienced by us, it felt close, relatable, as if he’s just a neighbor boy who we sorta knew (despite whatever geological distance that separate us). Songs from certain years often become a soundtrack of whatever events unfolding on screen and help us tracking the timeline of the film itself. It was a smart move on Linklater’s part.
Boyfood felt comfortably in the slice of life category, as it documents the life of Mason as he transition into a adulthood. It exploits mundane things that usually are understated, perhaps even the viewer’s experienced one or two of those things (perhaps an unfortunate haircut that made your crush thinks you’re cool or the fact that you lie to fit in with your peers or awkwardly getting birthday gifts you don’t really want/need from your relatives), little things that in turn become the strength of the film itself. As for the story itself, i really don’t think it has a lot to them. Slice of life in arts usually are developed organically and sometimes, perhaps does not bear much significance to them. If your focusing solely on Mason perhaps it would be harder to empathise or even like the character. I think the richness of the film lies in the relationship between the characters around him and how they interacts. Through Mason’s journey we also have glimpses of their journey: the single mother (Patricia Arquette) who wanted to provide a family yet stumbled across multiple bad decisions, the father (Ethan Hawke) who finally stepped into the shoes of an adult, etc. I think here’s where Linklater’s method are perfect for capturing the essence of life and time that the movie explored.
The film is not without flaw. I think some of the events occurred in the scene were too heavy handed and dramatic that it betrayed the realism it tried to achieve. I also felt that i grew to lost interest in Mason especially in his later teenage years, but like i said in the previous paragraph, i was immersed in his world and the people in it.
Boyhood screened earlier this year in Sundance film festival as well as Berlinale Film Festival (where Linklater won the Silver Bear award for Best Director). Since then i received almost an unanimous praise from critics as well as generating an Oscar buzz (i remain neutral about that). And based on Hypable interview, the director himself reveal that fans can wait for a Criterion Collection release of the film (loads of extras, he said). Just like us human I think the film is not without flaw, but it was definitely one of a kind.
GENRE Comedy, Romance
DIRECTOR Richard Linklater | PRODUCER Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, John Sloss, Jonathan Sehring | WRITER Richard Linklater | CINEMATOGRAPHER Lee Daniel, Shane Kelly | EDITOR Sandra Adair | DISTRIBUTOR IFC Films | COUNTRY United States | RUNNING TIME 165 minutes | RATING R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use | RELEASE January 19, 2014 (Sundance)
STARRING Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke
DID YOU KNOW? Had Richard Linklater died during the 12-year shoot, Ethan Hawke would have taken over the directorial duties. I wonder if it would change the outcome altogether. Anyway here’s a cool pop culture timeline as seen by Mason throughout the journey of Boyhood (from the official site)