Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) is the film of the decade and it’s no wonder; over the space of 12 years the same actors were filmed for a total of 39 days and the result is a realism that cannot be matched. Instead of make-up and effects to age our characters we actually grow alongside them, this increased sense of realism allows us to connect and interact with characters as I have never experienced before. It is moving, it is heavy, and it is a cinematic masterpiece that will leave its mark on film history.
Richard Linklater has a prolific history as a director, from mainstream successes such as School of Rock (2003) to extremely low-budget films such as ‘Slacker’ (1991) and widely appreciated romantic drama ‘Before Sunrise’ (1995) and its two sequels. Linklater’s career has spanned over 30 years and I feel no difficulty in making the claim, Boyhood is Linklater’s Greatest Achievement; premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the film was instantly acclaimed by critics and widely accepted as phenomenal. ‘Boyhood’ Currently holds a 99% rating on, popular film scoring/ review site, Rotten Tomatoes.
Linklater has an amazing ability as a director in allowing the spectator to feel a part of the film; as I sat, entranced by Ellar Coltrane’s performance, I felt no sense of voyeurism but instead felt submerged within a family that I felt I knew. Every featured character is entirely believable, entirely relatable, there is a perfect balance between elaborate histories and simplistic emotions; each character is amazingly emotionally complex whilst maintaining a universal standard of thought. As a spectator I do not feel that these people are above or below me, they are not characters or performers but human beings as real as you and I who just happen to be caught on film, ‘Boyhood’ watches like reality television, nothing about it would make you question its authenticity. It is hard to comprehend, when we think of the film’s production history, how simple Linklater was able to make the film appear.
Although we are watching a film entitled ‘Boyhood’ it is in no way merely a film about a young man. Many issues are tackled within the two hour, forty-five minute time frame; each character has their own story and their own issues to deal with, don’t be fooled by the film’s title, each and every issue is cut open and explored in the same level of detail as Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane)’s evolution into manhood. The surface issues give way to much deeper ideas, ideas that many of the audience have had to learn themselves; we watch Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) finally accept his place as an adult after years of adolescent misadventures, and we see Olivia (Patricia Arquette) struggle within the patterns of domestic abuse and adapting to being a single parent, the problems that this fictional family face are no different to our own, nor are they overly dramatized.
The narrative is intelligently formed in the way in which time elapses; the film intermittently flows through its 12 year span with an unsystematic elegance. As a spectator you are flung between scenes, landing amidst family gatherings and other personal events, once again building up a connection between spectator and performer. With all of the aberrant time gaps it is spectacular that none of the empathy is lost, the narrative does not affect the sense of intimacy felt towards the story. We are literally able to watch a family grow before our eyes, both emotionally and physically, in less than three hours.
I don’t feel like there has ever been a film like ‘Boyhood’, it captures everything, parenting, growing up and life on a whole, it is captivating, moving, funny and sad; the film focuses on the little things in life, the small parts and stories that make up an individual, the things that Hollywood tends to miss. In my mind there is no question as to whether ‘Boyhood’ is real, the story itself may be fictitious but the emotions captured live in every one of us. Life is hard and no-one can judge where it’s going to go, what it’s going to be, who we are going to become and never have I seen a more accurate depiction of real life. This is truly a universally appreciable, ingeniously directed, beautifully performed, elegantly created cinematic experience that shouldn’t be missed, you will laugh, you will cry and you will see a shadow of yourself , your family and anyone else you’ve met in every moment of it.