Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Film Review: Boyhood (2014)



Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke

Film making doesn’t get much better than Boyhood. It’s a unique experience and if there’s one thing which will make you happier than the film itself, it’s the very fact that it got made.

Seriously, we should be truly thankful for Richard Linklater and the films he gives us. I see his work as gifts rather than simply film releases; whether that is Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, Tape, or the incomparable Before Trilogy, his films transcend expectations of what can be achieved when a director works on his own terms and strives to be different whilst never being untrue to himself. He makes the films he wants to make and the stories he wants to tell, never taking the ‘paycheck pictures’ or taking on bland paint-by-numbers projects which could have been done by any hack for hire. Even his studio films (The Newton Boys, The School Of Rock) are character driven and light on plot, without action or high drama as a lynchpin to sell them to the masses.

Linklater is a true auteur and one of the great American film makers to emerge in the past 20 years. With Boyhood, his 16th feature, he has outdone even his own high standard, and that is no mean feat to say the very least.

Just take a moment to think of the creative genius which goes into even planning to make a single film across 12 years, filming section by section. Now think of the genius involved to actually make that happen; to get the same actors to contribute for 12 years of their lives, ready to pick up the story, get into character, and trust in the creative force of a director behind them to keep the project alive. Finally, think of the many directions a project like this could have gone, only for it to end up as an example of film making perfection. That, right there, is what makes Linklater one of the greats.

Filmed over 12 years, Boyhood effortlessly spans the growth of one boy named Mason (a stellar performance from Ellar Coltrane) from the age of 6 to 18. We see Mason change before our very eyes at a steady pace (the film is 166 minutes long and I could have watched another hour more) but Linklater’s film doesn’t play out like a checklist of adolescent clich├ęs, but we know that’s not the director’s style and vision. Linklater shows us the moments in-between the moments; the drive home after the graduation, the breakup after the cheating, the bruises after the punches. Although outstanding it’s what Linklater does best and what we’ve become accustomed to; no one else can make scenes of people talking seem quite as naturalistic as this director. Again, it’s the effortlessness of the film making which flaws me.

Reviewing Boyhood is ultimately difficult because there aren’t any ‘standout’ scenes or plot twists to keep you guessing, nor is there anything which we haven’t necessarily seen before from a purely filmic perspective. It’s not about ‘big’ moments and overly dramatic moments, but it’s about life itself, of which not ever aspect will be a major one. It’s about how Mason deals with these moments, but also it reminds us of how we have faced similar moments in our lives; do we recognise a bit of Mason in all of us? What advice would we give him if we could talk to him? It’s more than limited just one specific boyhood, it’s a film anyone could relate to. I know I did.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: It’s that this film even exists and is utterly compelling to boot which is the overriding factor to its success. To see it is to experience it, and to experience it is to love it. And to love Boyhood is to love film making. We all owe Richard Linklater a massive thank you... again.

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