Richard Linklater, in my opinion is one of the greatest indie directors out there today. His filmography contains some of the greatest and most ingenious work any director has ever done. In 1991, He made a solid debut with small budget comedy ‘Slacker’, gave us quite possibly the greatest hang-out movie ever, (Dazed and Confused). he’s made us see animation in a new light (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly), brought the best out of Jack Black (School of Rock, Bernie), sure he’s disappointed us now and then (Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation), but ever so often he’s also had the ability to simply enchant us (Before; Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight). From someone who’s made a career out innovative and inventive film-making it’s no surprise he’s behind something like ‘Boyhood’
With Boyhood however Linklater tries to do something different, something that hasn’t been done before not just by him but anyone. Filmed over 12 years, Boyhood is a movie that tracks the development of a boy from the age of 5 to the age of 18, and pretty much tells a story for each year of his life. It stars Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke as his parents and Lorelei Linklater as his sister, Samantha. However, Boyhood is far more than just a gimmick film, it’s a wonderful coming of age story on the grandest scale. The transition of the characters is truly the highlight of the movie, watching our characters go through the ups and downs of life makes for a truly remarkable cinematic experience. The movie definitely has a time capsule feel to it, each period brings us a brief moment of nostalgia due to the amount of pop-culture items present in each period, ranging from the music to the Harry Potter books to the Xbox. Performance-wise Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette lead the show with great performances, particularly Hawke who’s naturalistic acting is truly fantastic to watch. Taking on such an ambitious project is never easy and in that sense i think Linklater succeeds by bringing that ambition to the screen.
However, Boyhood in my opinion suffers from many drawbacks. One of them is perhaps presenting us with a highly unlikable as well as a highly uninteresting protagonist in Mason. Throughout the course of the movie Mason goes from a nice, sweet, highly likable young kid to a slacking, lazy, aimless teenager. We see Mason being offered guidance and advice from his elders yet the paths he takes leaves one confused and frustrated. And Coltrane’s performance also deteriorates through the course of the movie and at the end we’re left with a character that you really couldn’t care less about. I found Lorelei Linklater’s acting also quite disappointing given the screen-time she was given. The latter part of the movie also featured some of the most disconnecting moments of the entire film and the run-time could have been shorter. It felt like the show was over, the story was told, yet Mason was still on screen. This gave me a feeling i last got after watching Robert Zemeckis’s ‘Cast Away’.
In the end, Boyhood is a good movie, a magnificent achievement and a bold move for Richard Linklater, featuring great performances from Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. However, it is also a highly disconnecting movie at times and in my opinion Linklater fails to truly succeed as a storyteller. The portrait that he paints of our protagonist, Mason, also comes across as a highly muddled and meandering effort.