John Lennon’s lyrical quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” resonates loudly in Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking film ‘Boyhood.’ The fact that it was shot a few days each year for 12 years is remarkable in itself. Yet the extraordinary aspect of this monumental work is that it reminds us of our childhood as we’re watching him mature before our eyes on screen. ‘Boyhood’ never feels choppy. It flows effortlessly through different stages of his life no matter how mundane it seems. But hey, that’s life. Most of the time, it is ordinary but Linklater beautifully captures these everyday moments that shape his life with subtle naturalism. ‘Boyhood’ is one of the best films of the year.
It’s fascinating to watch. Linklater is no stranger to ambitious film projects. He made the brilliant ‘Before’ trilogy that showed the ups-and-downs of true romance. With ‘Boyhood,’ he follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 7 to age 19. The fact that it is the same actor throughout the whole story is incredible. Coltrane was a smart choice for the lead role. He’s not the football star of the high school or the valedictorian of his class. No, Mason is more interesting than those teenage stereotypes. At first, Mason is quiet but he emerges into an insightful and creative young adult. He has a passion for photography that gives his character richness in the way he sees the world through a lens. His teachers are a strong influence in his formative years and they encourage him to pursue his artistic side.
We observe Mason’s growth through changing hairstyles and the physical changes of adolescence. We’re introduced to his family. Linklater perfectly shows how family dynamics play a major role in his formative years. Mason’s sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei) is more of an extrovert than her brother and breaks out into a Britney Spears song to his annoyance. The kids are a product of divorced parents. Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is the matriarch. When she tells the kids, they are going to move. It really shows how they are the supporting players in the parent’s lives. She wants to go back to college so she can provide them with a better way of life. The kids have no say in the matter. They are moving and that’s it. It’s not a selfish act. She is the one responsible for providing a stable household for them. Cars are a metaphor for change throughout the film.
We get to meet Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) when he picks up the kids for a fun weekend of eating junk food and watching a baseball game. Again, it’s insightful how Linklater shows the parents still trying to figure out their lives while caring for their children too. Mason Sr. is a fledgling musician that still drives a GTO muscle car. At first, he comes across as a deadbeat dad but he evolves through the film. Olivia goes back to college and meets a professor (Marco Perella). They marry and on the surface it looks like the kids are finally living the suburban American dream. You just know Olivia does it for more financial stability. As the marriage deteriorates through the husband’s alcohol addiction, you feel for the mom’s bad choices. She divorces this jerk and moves on to another relationship that turns sour too. The whole time the kids are along for the ride. As we get to know Mason’s real father, Linklater reveals to us that he isn’t such a bad guy after all. When he takes Mason camping, he gives him amazing advice. When Mason goes through his first breakup, dad is there to help him mend his broken heart.
And this is another reason why Linklater achieved a masterpiece. He shows how his whole family grows up together. Mason’s sister Samantha is remarkable to watch too. Her growth spurt is amazing. She matures into a beautiful young woman with the same hopes and dreams as Mason. There is a gut-wrenching scene with Mason and his mom Olivia. It’s that moment when she realizes Mason is leaving the nest for college. It’s a wonderful moment in the film. Arquette captures the sadness of letting go and realizing that part of her life is over but just the beginning for Mason. ‘Boyhood’ is more than just a coming-of-age drama, it’s a mesmerizing look at the bittersweet process of growing up. Check out the official trailer http://youtu.be/Y0oX0xiwOv8.