Houston’s own Richard Linklater is well-known for his ambitious projects filmed over long periods of time. If you’ve seen the Before (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight) trilogy, you know that it’s one story filmed with the same anchor actors over almost 20 years. Boyhood is equally ambitious but ultimately more risky, since it captures the same cast over twelve years, the result delivered in one film instead of three. The risky move by Linklater was an overwhelming success that left me completely speechless for hours; it will probably be a magnet for awards this year.
Even if you’re like me and you don’t have instant recall of detail from your youth, you’ll likely remember pieces after watching this film: the innocence of the single digit years, the awkward learning moments of the tween years, the rebellion and identity search of the teen years. If you’ve been a brother, sister, mother or father, you will relate to at least one character and their 12 year evolution. In part, the universal relatability and recall inducing effect, is why Boyhood has resonated so positively across critics and movie-goers alike. Linklater is a genius at creating detailed, evolving story lines having wide-band appeal.
Casting is perfect and acting is stellar. Ethan Hawke is outstanding and believable as the weekend father, removed from the day to day but enthusiastically participating is his children’s upbringing. Does anyone else think Hawke is one of the most overlooked actors in Hollywood? Ellar Coltrane is amazing as the son, his coming of age delivery was natural and believable across all ages. I hope Coltrane continues acting but he’s only 21 and who knows how his actual life will evolve. Linklater cast his won daughter, Lorelei, as the older sister. I liked her delivery of the irritating, precocious tween, evolving to thoughtful, strong young woman.
The show stealer was Patricia Arquette as the mom. For me Arquette will always be Alabama, the happy hooker from Tarantino’s True Romance. There are some carryovers from that character but Arquette has honed her acting skills considerably since 1993. What I liked most about her portrayal as the mom, was her ability to project a vulnerability but with an underlying strength so you never feel sorry for her. She struggles with poor choices in men, finances, her own identity and in the end she faces mortality as her last leaves the nest. Arquette is the embodiment of the unsavoury reality that ‘growing up’ does not end with admission into adulthood.
I can’t imagine being tasked with editing footage from a 12 year span and creating a cohesive 3-hour film. But, amazingly, that is what editor and co-producer Sandra Adair has done. Transitions between the years are not announced with any fanfare; one scene ends, typically with a possible transition for one character, then the next scene starts, the transition having already occurred. Since most of the film is drawing on the viewer’s ability to relate to the events, they leverage that premise to drive home what isn’t shown.
Boyhood and Birdman are currently tied in my mind for Best Film. If you can only see two this year, I would recommend those. Boyhood being a classic coming of age story, technical amazement and a Phoenix-rising for Patricia Arquette, Birdman being a fast-paced dramedy and a Phoenix-rising for Michael Keaton.