Wow, I just returned from the movie theater and felt like I really lived through 12 years of someone else's life. That's not a bad thing...at all. Sitting at an extensive runtime of nearly three hours, surely one of the movie's goals is to convey just that. Whenever we take a trip to the movies, we hope that once we're there, seated comfortably in a cushy seat and a darkened room that prevents one from reentering reality during the showing's entire duration (no sight of your actual environment), we are instantly transported from our own world into someone else's. No, I'm not promoting reality shows even though that could be interpreted from my rambling. The difference is that this life of another isn't highlighting trashy lifestyles and obnoxious messages while a pack of low-life's further their ego.
This view is of the life of a boya very young one of 5 years old (Ellar Coltrane). He has a bossy, occasional (playful) bully of a sister around his age (Lorelei Linklater) and a stressed, over-worked, but still deeply caring/attentive, mother (Patricia Arquette). His mother and father (Ethan Hawke) are unfortunately divorced, but his sister and he still get the chance to hang out with the dad nearly every weekend. This father isn't the standard alcoholic or high-tempered domestic abuser that Hollywood pictures usually show; instead, Hawke is a fun, genuinely solicitous, and charismatic dad who just didn't see eye to eye with Mom. Believe it or not, not all marriages (stereotypically) end because one in the relationship is acutely perverse and disorderly. Frequently, it's simply due to misunderstanding, as well as the vanishing lust/chemistry the once-romantic partners used to share.
Yes, life isn't as clear-cut as some would like us to believe, and this is exactly what I love about Richard Linklaterhonestly one of my favorite directors working today: from his Before trilogy to Boyhood, he creates an outstandingly authentic atmosphere for these grand stories. The acting is top-notchnever overblown but effectively subtle. As a result, every character within seems like a real person talking and not an actor boasting theatrics and eagerly chasing awards. Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Marco Perella (assuming a smaller role as a stepfather) deliver transcendent performances and absorb vast complexity within every hint of emotion. There's sincere happiness, feigned happiness, the short tempers, and the haste to arguments. Everything is exhibited so damn realistically with incredible verisimilitudethe dialogue never missing a beat in making the audience feel as if they're truly witnessing this empathetic life proceed before their eyes.
And that's not even the greatest element, that of which I seem to be undermining (partially because everyone has already excessively noted and praised it): the fascinating and original premise. For the first time ever, a motion picture12 years in the makingcaptures this boy's rampant maturation from the mere age of 5 to the full-grown age of 18 in real time, meaning we get to see all of these brilliant actors age along with the narrative's span. These very actors are aging in front of you adding weight, losing weight, growing hair, losing hair, and so on. That undeniably impressive quality denies the viewer any time to address possible flaws, seeing that there are some indeedas minor as they may be.
On the contrary and as to be expected, the teenage years become very awkward, and suddenly, we observe a jarring shift from the authentic, natural feel of the childhood years to the clumsy, superficial scenes that govern Mason's high school period. It's not even the essence of what I've mentioned that's the problem because that could've all been executed intentionally, but then you have the archetypal bullies that shove and curse for absolutely no given reason (do other states really experience these types of situations because I've never spotted such overt behavior where I live?) and the clichéd "teenage" talk that is played to the most over-the-top degree. Hollywood often makes this mistake, but I was surprised to see it in a Linklater film.
Nonetheless, it's equally fascinating to recognize the current year in the narrative as a popular song from that particular year plays in the background (from 2002's "Soak Up the Sun" to 2007's "Crank That" to 2010's "Deep Blue"). The look of the film, on another note, is simple yet verily effectual. There is no artistic pretense to be seen in Linklater's film(s)no psychedelic editing or ostentatious camera shots; this is naturalism at its finest. Through infatuation, heartbreak, depression, introversion, joy, peer pressure, the "stoner stage," we follow Mason on an epic 12-year journey with every sentiment and phase that we all primarily experienced at one point or anther.
As a middle-aged individual, this could be more of a charming and heartening ride. On the other hand, as a teenager who's about to take the next step in his life (into college and professional work), it's considerably more depressing and frightening, oozing themes of responsibility, maturity, life's uncertainty, and the like. You're consequently forced to look around and reassess the course you're currently treading in life. This remarkable cinematic piece speaks to the audience in various manners as it continues to also stun with its sheer scope and ambition.