Boyhood

July 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment
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I love many things in movies: being able to laugh, simple escapism, cool CGI, great acting, a surprising plot, stunning visuals, a pitch black story… Yet, what I love most is a film that can tell me the truth.  Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused,” “School of Rock”) has evolved into a director who has become masterful at exploring truth with stunning nuance.  In his brilliant series “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” and “Before Midnight,” he explores the growth and changes in a couple by revisiting them every 9 years.  Should this series continue over the course of these actors lives, it may yet become the single most important piece of art in film.  Here, he does something equally as profound. Filmed over the course of 12 years with the same 4 core actors (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei), “Boyhood” is the story of growing up in America today. If, in a hundred years, people want to understand what it was like to grow up right now, in this moment, this movie captures it perfectly. We follow Mason (Coltrane) from age 6 to 18 as his family, friends and communities shift and change around him. Filmed throughout Texas, the movie is full of characters and situations, large and small, that all seem completely real. The families, communities, values, how they talked and what they did for fun all rung true to me. Over the course of the film, we watch a boy evolve into a young man, both as an actor and as a character. Coltrane’s work during the first part of the film was awkward and stilted (at times I could see him glance off screen at the cue cards) but, somewhere around age 12 or 13, he suddenly grew into the character.  By the end of the movie, he was giving a heartfelt and nuanced performance. In addition, the relationships grew as the film went on. There was a point near the end, where he and Hawke are talking, when I was really struck by the fact that these two guys genuinely care about each other. What was so clearly acting at the beginning had evolved into a genuine, caring relationship. Near the beginning of the movie, we hear a college professor talking about Pavlov and classical conditioning. Near the end, Mason tells his girlfriend (in a funny and insightful moment) that we have all been conditioned to respond to the sound of our inboxes. If there is a theme to this film, it seems to me that that is it: how does life condition us to become the people we are? What are all the forces, big and small, that shape boys into men? Here, we get to see the long, very ordinary path, that creates the young man who Mason becomes. In those final moments, he is fully realized as a character.  I feel like I know him and understand why he is this person. This is a story with no major drama.  There are no explosions.  There is no real peril.  No story arc beyond that of life lived. Yet, I was touched almost to tears in the final few scenes because it felt like a family, and this boy, had shared their lives with me.  What more could I ask for from a film than that?

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