Saturday, January 31, 2015

Boyhood review; a film for the ages... literally

It's easy to get caught up in the 'making-of' a movie like Boyhood.  As you've most likely heard by now, the movie took 12 years to produce, and it utilizes the same actors, throughout that 12 year journey.  Every year, Writer/Director Richard Linklater would gather the cast and film a few additional scenes.  Before he knew it, he had completed something so rare, it could have been written off as nothing more than an experiment in filmmaking.  Luckily for us, it turned out to be much more than that.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Characters
The film centers around a boy named Mason; played by Ellar Coltrane.  Mason is a sweet young boy; quiet and mostly introverted.  And it's fascinating to watch the young actor become an adult onscreen.   We quickly fall in love with Mason as we remember back to our childhood innocence.  Whether you are a boy or girl, man or woman, you will see Mason go through things that will harken back to our own experiences.  And not to get off topic, but that's why I think the movie is doing so well.  It's connecting to its audience on so many levels; and I've always felt that is the sign of a great movie.  It's a film I connected with on so many levels.

Mason's parents are played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, and they are phenomenal.  Both actors have been nominated for an Academy Award this year for their performances in the film.  Hawke's character has a very interesting character arc throughout the almost 3 hour runtime.  He is a father who genuinely loves his children; but is a childish man who somehow refuses to grow up.  There are some great moments between Mason and his father, that will most definitely resonate with men of all ages that go see the movie.  Hawke plays the character as a fragile young man, who grows up, just like Mason.

The real 'center' of the film is Patricia Arquette's character.  She is a single mom who is lost in the world.  She's going back to school to finish her education, while trying to find love.  Arquette plays the character so honestly, that you genuinely feel for her.  We go through a range of emotions with the character.  We're happy for her when she finishes college, and we weep for her when she enters one abusive relationship after another.  While Arquette's performance is a stand out in the film; the movie really focuses on her relationship with the Mason character.  As a man who is very close to his mother, I really appreciated these timeless moments we see between the two characters.

There are other great characters scattered throughout the film; but really this is Mason's story.  I do want to mention Director Linklater's daughter, Lorelei; she plays Mason's sister Samantha and also captures our attention as she grows up onscreen.

The Moments
Life really is just a series of moments we string together to tell our story.  Not everything in our lives has a beginning, middle and end.  Boyhood goes against the grain, and doesn't worry about telling a traditional, narrative, story.  Instead, it explores important moments in Mason's life.  I've ready a lot about the film, and much of Mason's story is inspired by Director Richard Linklater's.  So many things I went through in my life, I saw onscreen.  Maybe it wasn't an abusive father, but I could relate to a tension filled dinner where no one said a word.  I could relate to a teacher who believed I was capable of more than what I was producing.  Or a sibling I trust to tell anything.  Again, movies we can relate to on some level, are usually the best kind!

The Director
The movie could have turned out to be nothing more than a novelty; the culmination of a talented director's crazy idea.  But it is so much more.  The first time I saw the young actor age before my eyes on the screen, I was a bit taken back.  Linklater seamlessly moves the story along, and does not slow down to acknowledge the passing of time.  The term 'movie magic' is quite literal in this film.  The idea was so crazy, it actually worked.  I've seen, and been a fan of several of Linklater's films; but after Boyhood, he's cemented himself as a visionary director with the ability to tell an engaging story.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Pacing
Even with a tightly knit script, the pacing is a bit off.  It was inevitable, considering the way in which the film was made.  This is really a minor complaint; but when you consider the movie is almost 3 hours, it's a bit of an emotional roller coaster to get through everything that happens with these characters.  There are really intense moments between the characters that will get your anxiety up; followed by tender moments of love that get us to relax.  I guess this is yet another metaphor for life.

The Verdict:
A Film for the Ages
It really is a movie that only comes along once in a generation.  A great story, with great characters is the foundation for a great movie.  The fact that it was filmed over 12 years was crucial to THIS story.  I don't know if it would have had the same effect as using the same actors, instead of three different actors at various stages in the characters' lives.  But, we shouldn't use the mechanics of the film to define it.  The method in which it was made are just the icing on this amazing cake.  Go see Boyhood!

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