Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Being eighteen years old, the same age Mason is come the film’s conclusion, this film spoke to me and moved me in a way no other film has or could. This is a film that perfectly captures the cultural, social, and political touchstones of my generation. Seeing these twelve years pass in the space of just over two and a half hours was at times a deeply nostalgic experience. Linklater doesn’t signpost the passing of time with title cards, instead it is the gradual changing of the characters, technology, and the music cues, which clue us in as to where we are in time. Such moments feel as if they were written and directed with the gift of retrospect, perhaps because they were not and instead were truly capturing the moment in which the scenes were shot. One particular example of this is when Mason and his dad discuss Star Wars, and agree that there can be no more films after Return of the Jedi. It’s as if somebody time traveled and gave them the perfect gag. The film has a leisurely pace and loose structure, which parallels not only the passing of time but also our perceptions of it, and the way in which we recollect our memories.
What is particularly note-worthy about Boyhood is not just its scope in time but its emotional scope. This is not just a film for boys of a certain age and it is arguably Patricia Arquette’s film. As Mason’s mother, Patricia Arquette delivers one of the best performances of the year. She is a fully fleshed out character who makes this film as much about parenting and adulthood as it is about youth and boyhood. Ethan Hawke is equally excellent as Mason’s estranged father. His presence on screen is incredibly commanding and comforting, with this perhaps being my favourite Ethan Hawke performance. Watching the rather sudden, yet inevitable development of his character is a joy to see, with many of the scenes between him and Mason touching deep universal emotions. It says a lot about their performances and this film that it made me see and understand the frustrations and emotions of a parent. The annoyance when your child responds shortly to your searching questions and the emotion when they leave home for college. This is as much about the family as it is about Mason, and it is the family you come to care about, root for, and feel a part of. Scenes of them in distress had my heart beating faster than any action scene this year.
Whilst calling it the ultimate coming of age film in the opening paragraph, this film doesn’t touch all the typical beats and clichés of that genre. It doesn’t go from touchstone to touchstone as if going down a checklist of firsts. With there never really being the sense that something has been unnaturally forced in. Being a sweeping epic however there is the legitimate argument that the film goes on a little longer than it needs to, although I was not bored for a second of its near three hour running time.
Boyhood is a film I’ve been thinking about constantly since having seen it a few days ago. It actually makes you think back to your own life and it brought back some memories I’d completely forgotten about. It turns the seemingly mundane and personal into something very cinematic and profound. At the end of the film is this melancholic sense of how you don’t seize the moment but the moment seizes you (Even if the line directly stating that is delivered in more of a comedic manner) with a particularly affecting scene being when Patricia Arquette laments how all these milestones have passed her by, and she thought there would be more. You look back and realize you’ve gone through a big event or milestone but they didn’t feel like that at the time, they just happened. Yet there’s also the optimistic sense that whether you’re eighteen or fifty, you have a whole life ahead of you and lives can change for the better in what ultimately seems like an instant.