Boyhood (2014)

12:16 PM

No surprise, the focus of Boyhood is on the boy, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane). Mason has a sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), a mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and an estranged father, Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke). When we meet Mason, he's already in the first grade and he's already at an uneasy place in life, about to move to a new town, seeing his dad only occasionally. Mason's mother Olivia remarries to a man we'll rapidly come to know as an abusive alcoholic, followed up a few years later by a troubled US soldier, also burdened with alcoholism. All the while, Mason doesn't quite feel like he fits in - he'd rather make art than worry about his future, graduation parties are embarrassing, his thoughts are too deep for the average party girl. He's the one millennial in a million, apparently. Really, he's  the manic pixie dream boy - a bit fucked up, but a free spirit who will help you on your journey to defying conventions and in collecting every known teenager cliché´along the way. But that's just the plot you know.

If you haven't seen Boyhood, you've no doubt at least heard of its remarkable journey. Shot over twelve years, with a few days of shooting annually from 2002-2013, this is truly Richard Linklater's ark. If you've ever had the good fortune to experience his Before trilogy, you'd know that Linklater is a bonafide master of dialogue. The first film in the series, Before Sunrise (1995) has Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy aimlessly wander the streets of Vienna, saying nothing important really, but somehow surfacing those little all-important cosmic connections. Everything about the Before trilogy is magical, and it's all to do with the perfect and almost constant dialogue between Jesse and Céline. With his latest film, Boyhood as the talk of the summer, I expected that same kind of  attentiveness, those same "ah-ha" moments. Knowing Linklater's flair for conversation, I'm just the tiniest bit disappointed to discover that Boyhood is idea rather than substance driven. Linklater has tried to marry the two, but concept brutally defeats content in this round. 

However, Boyhood is still an amazing achievement. You see, I absolutely hate the term overrated. It has no real meaning. But, over the past few days, different people have told me that Boyhood is just that. I find that some movie-goers delight in taking a well-liked movie down a peg like there's a  rush in going against the grain. But there's nothing overrated about Boyhood. Overhyped maybe, but certainly not overrated. There's something extraordinary about this movie that no other film has managed to touch in quite the same way. That epic determination of cataloguing the turbulences of a family growing up is an enormous feat, Linklater was just the first to do it. I might liken Boyhood to Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (2011) which compared the drama of the creation of the Earth with that of the creation of a suburban Texas family. Where The Tree of Life surpasses on a fundamentally emotional  and spiritual level, Boyhood satisfies primal enjoyment and excels in forming an exhaustingly accurate timeline.  And believe it or not (and my plot-related cynicism aside) this is actually a fun, feel-good movie. For anyone who grew up in the time frame, those little blinks of nostalgia - a Coldplay tune, the Oregon Trail computer game, Harry Potter books launches- will leave you with a case of the warm fuzzies, guaranteed. 

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