“What’s the point of it all?” Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) asks his father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) after his heart is broken by lost love. “I thought there would be more”, his mother Olivia(Patricia Arquette) asks as her youngest leaves for college. These are thoughts that every person has at different stages of life. The truth is, no one can answer that for you, it is a journey you must take. It’s called growing up.
Boyhood is a coming-of-age film that surpasses any before it. It is the most realistic, natural film to date. Largely thanks to the very risky choice to use the same cast and see them age, without recasting or aging make-up. A risk that paid off!
From the age of six, Mason Jr and big sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) has never known a stable family dynamic. Their parents split at a early age, and since then their mother hasn’t made the best choices in boyfriends or new husbands. Having to move often, to ‘start anew’, sometimes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. This understandably so, places a lot of strain on their relationship and emotional development. But Linklater doesn’t over emphasize this, nor placing typical theatricality to conflict situations, as films so love to do to provoke reaction from its viewers. No, with Boyhood you see it for what it is. In the the end it isn’t a tale of domestic violence, or teenage rebellion or a philosophical tale. It is about life, growing up and these are the realities that surround our daily lives.
“It’s a little like a time-lapse photography of a human being.” Ethan Hawke summarizes what it is like watching Boyhoody. Using Mason Jr’s love for photography it echoes the main objective of the film beautifully.
Shot over 11 years from May 2002 to October 2013, starting in Linklaters hometown of Houston. The De Havilland Law states that contracting someone for 12 years is illegal, thus the cast never signed a contract binding them to the film. But everyone remained loyal to the project and the main cast contributed to the screenwriting. Linklater believed in this coming of age film so much that he asked Hawke to take over on his behalf should Linklater pass away before it’s completion. The title was originally thought to be The Twelve-Year Project, but when 12 Years a Slave released in 2013, Linklater renamed it to Boyhood, to avoid confusion.
Boyhood was released in the US August 15th of this year. It’s age restriction differs, the US labelled it with a R-rating, unsuitable for under seventeens. The UK said unsuitable for under fifteens due to the depiction of alcoholism and domestic violence in the film. In Germany they ruled for parental guidance, under the voluntary self control system.
Linklater perhaps the only one that would be able to attempt such a project and make it a almost flawless success. As with his Before trilogy (Before Sunrise 1995, Before Sunset 2001, Before Midnight 2013), Boyhood is evidence that Linklater has mastered naturalism on screen. Every viewer is given something relatable, even if it is just the wardrobe that really caught my eye, sometimes cringing knowing that that was what we use to wear. The soundtrack further puts you on track with either nostalgia and noticeable progression of the passing of time and reflection of the last decade. From Bob Dylan, Wings, Jeff Tweedy, Coldplay, Wilco, Gnarls Barkley, Vampire Weekend, Black Keys and Arcade Fire to name but a few. Not all performances are equally strong, but it doesn’t distract. A film that captures the ordinary moments of life, a definite must see!
Teacher: “What do you want to be, Mason? What do you want to do?” The answer changes as time passes, but like Mason most of us just wants freedom to do and be who we want on our own time, and be allowed to do so.