If you’ve read anything about the making of the film, you will know that twelve years ago, Richard Linklater embarked on a project that would follow a young actor by the name of Ellar Coltrane from ages 5 to 19. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette were cast as his parents, and the director’s own daughter, Loralei, was cast as his sister. Over the course of twelve years, the cast and crew would come together and film a little here and a little there. As the people involved in the production matured, the script evolved. Finally, this weekend, Richard Linklater’s secret project was finally unleashed upon us, and it truly is a work of art. It’s hard to put into words the feelings that rushed over me as I sat through this film.
The film opens with an unforgettable image of young Mason lying on his back, staring at the sky, a look of absolute wonder on his face. This moment says so much about his character already, as it is revealed that Mason is a dreamer, a bit of an underachiever, and most importantly, an artist. His mother, Olivia, is a single parent who is struggling to make ends meet. His sister, Samantha, is a constant, lovable annoyance. His father, Mason Sr, is an aspiring rock star who has been an “on again, off again” presence in his life. When Olivia decides to move to Houston to be closer to her mother, the father takes the opportunity to form a bond with his children, although his attempts to smooth things over with his ex-wife never quite work out in his favor. Like little Mason, he is content to drift through life.
Over the course of the film, we will watch Mason grow and mature emotionally, physically, and intellectually. We’ll see the world through his eyes as his mother moves from one failed marriage to another trying to find her place in the world. We witness the first crush, his interactions with friends - some of whom stick around for the long haul. The film never lingers. We move seamlessly from moment to moment, as Linklater wisely avoids cliches of “coming of age” films. There are many loose ends that are never brought to a tidy conclusion - a move that I am thankful for, as this is closer to reality and drives home the intimacy of certain scenes. There isn’t a false note in the film. Ellar Coltrane’s performance is one of the most precious things that I have ever seen.
There is so much truth and beauty here. I wouldn’t want you to miss this film. Rush out and see it as soon as you can.