By Darin Skaggs
In the art of film we have cliché moments that we all know is going to happen. We have the guy finally getting the girl, the bad guy dies or a family finally comes together and apologizes to each other. Other more cynical filmmakers have moments of loved ones dying, a couple breaks up for the last time or the villain of the piece gets away with his plan. Richard Linkleter’s Boyhood is one of the few films that is true to life, no big reveal, no emotional conflict just a kid growing up.
For the last twelve years Linkleter has filmed a few scenes of Boyhood to show the true passage of time. It stars Ellar Coltrane as Mason, who we first met in his schoolyard at the age of six. He is looking at the clouds as Coldplay’s “Yellow” plays in the background. His mother comes to pick him up and Mason immediately starts asking questions a young boy would ask. This sets up the film perfectly and is an ongoing theme throughout the film. Mason, as he grows up, is always wondering as kids often do. This leads to many of the films funny, poignant and beautiful moments.
As mentioned once a year Linkleter and the team would come and film a few scenes. This happened for the last twelve years starting in 2002. There is no title card to indicate that a year has passed. The edits are seamless; there are moments that you won’t instantly know he has aged. This speaks to the themes. This is all about life and also about how life happens so fast. Mason is growing up before our eyes. In almost three hours he ages from six to eighteen. Linkleter takes the concept of “You’re growing up so fast” and puts it to film. By the end you’re proud of Mason and his sister Samantha, played by Linkleter’s daughter, Lorelei; but you are also sad that they have grown up so fast. Linkleter somehow makes you feel joy and sadness with filming these children for years and years and compiling it into one three hour film.
Coltrane does fantastic, with a few bumpy moments, but that is to be expected with being filmed for twelve years. Lorelei does good work as well along with the kid’s divorced father Ethan Hawke. Patricia Arquette the mother and care taker of the children does sensational. She goes through many troubles but never plays it over dramatic. You can blame the writing for all these wonderful characters but the acting of Arquette does the best with the role she is given.
Besides the premise the best part is that Linkleter captures childhood so well and specifically a generation. A big part of the first scene is the use of its music. In the opening Coldplay’s “Yellow” plays, in other instances Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up The Sun” plays and Samantha sings “Oops! I Did It Again” by Britney Spears. These songs will take you back to memories you had at the time. Music continually reminds us what year this takes place along with some technology, like the Nintendo Wii or the evolution of cell phones. Another great aspect that is explored in the film is just memories of children. There are great small moments that Mason goes through like moving to a new school and the teacher introducing him or when he is getting a haircut against his will. One of the best moments being an awkward conversation between 8th grade Mason and another 8th grade girl that rings so true it is amazing this moment, among others, is not a documentary.
Boyhood is an amazing achievement. It is a story that is so true to life you might find yourself saying “Life is beautiful” or shedding a few tears. It has a few moments that you could roll your eyes with but ultimately the film works so much as a whole these moments just seem to fit in. This is truly one of the best films of the year and of the decade.