(US - 2014)
Written and directed by Richard Linklater. Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Tamara Jolaine, Zoe Graham, Libby Vallari, Marco Perella, Jamie Howard, Andrew Villarreal, Brad Hawkins, Charlie Sexton, Richard Robichaux, Tom McTigue, Jessi Mechler. (R, 166 mins)
There are countless examples of film franchises or TV series where we've seen adults and children age through the years, but nothing quite like what Richard Linklater pulls off with his latest film, BOYHOOD. For 12 years starting in 2002, he had his core cast reconvene in Texas for a few days annually, improvising and shooting short vignettes and then, in 2013, piecing it together in a nearly three-hour narrative feature where the characters age and change over the course of the film. Lars von Trier attempted something like this with the more cumbersomely ambitious DIMENSION 1991-2024, which began shooting in 1991 with a plan to film three minutes a year for 33 years. Von Trier lost one of his stars when 79-year-old Eddie Constantine--who had very little chance of making it to the 2024 completion anyway--died in 1993 and he eventually abandoned the project by 2000 (it now exists as a 27-minute short film). Though BOYHOOD has a structure, Linklater was less concerned with a linear plot and goes for a more slice-of-life portrait of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to 18. Sequences organically flow from one year to the next and it takes a couple of these segues before you get into the film's distinct rhythm. One thing that makes BOYHOOD fascinating is how much we learn just from seeing snapshots of these people over a 12-year period. We miss key events as Linklater focuses on the everyday aspects. Life is the time in between the milestones, and Linklater captures it in a way few others have. Particularly with the younger actors--Coltrane and Linklater's daughter Lorelei as Mason's older sister Samantha--we don't see what most films would label the "defining moments" of their lives. We hear about Mason's first kiss, but don't see it. We know he's lost his virginity but it's not shown. The performances are very natural and unaffected, at least until the teen years when kids shed their childlike demeanor and develop affectations and personas. Coltrane's performance remains largely natural throughout as goes from cute kid to sullen and sometimes pretentious teenager, but Linklater's daughter does seem a bit less into it as the years go on: an expressive and enthusiastic scene-stealer in the early going, she grows rather bland and dull as the story goes on and she's given less to do.
|Ellar Coltrane over the 12 years of BOYHOOD's production