Linklater's revolutionary new film captures the effects of time, change and growth
Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" breathes life into the genre of coming to age films that has been exhausted on movie screens for decades. The film unfolds in real time, and serves as a time capsule that not only captures the growth of the film's characters, but the world around us.
Filmed over the course of 12 years, the film follows the childhood of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) through the conflicts, milestones and nuances of life. Mason begins the film as a giddy six year old boy living with his mother Liv (Patricia Arquette) and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Throughout the film Mason encounters milestones such as his first love, first job and high school graduation. The film also follows Mason as he deals with his parent's divorce, living apart from his father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), a nonchalant, aspiring musician, and then living with two abusive alcoholic stepfathers. As Mason grows older, he develops a cynical view of the world and begins to question life's purpose. However, bits of humor are spliced between Mason's brooding demeanor and the characters' tribulations. By the end of the film, Mason turns 18 and takes a leap into adulthood, sporting a beard and earring and immersing himself into photography.
Linklater's choice to film in real time captures not only the emotional transformation of the characters, but their physical aging, without relying on implausible look-alikes. This adds more depth and believability to the film. The audience watches the onscreen aging of established stars such as Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. In the film, Arquette flawlessly takes on the role of Mason's mother, by portraying the struggles and triumphs of motherhood. Hawke also perfectly embodies the role as Mason Sr., Mason's father who transforms into a responsible and invested parent. The audience also watches Samantha grow up several steps ahead of Mason as she goes from a bossy and precocious 8 year old to a grungy college student.
The entire film centers on change and time, and captures the drastic change in the world over the last 12 years. The film incorporates footage from the Iraq war and even features a scene showing Mason and his sister working on Obama's 2008 campaign on behalf of their father. Before our eyes we can see technology transition from Gameboys and boxy televisions to Wii consoles and text message to iPhones and MacBook pros. The soundtrack of the film also counts down the hits of the past twelve years, from Coldplay's "Yellow" to Gotye's "Somebody that I Used to Know" and later Arcade Fire's "Deep Blue," adding to the film's genuine depiction of elapsed time.
Near the end of his film, Mason subtly asks his father what the purpose of life is and what people are meant to do. His father replies that we are all just "winging it." This film is perfect for anyone just "winging it" as we journey from one moment in our lives to another.
Boyhood is rated R for language and some sexual content and is now playing in select theaters.
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