<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Marco Perella, Brad Hawkins, Elijah Smith, Steven Price
An experiment that has paid off for writer/director Richard Linklater, Boyhood was shot over a period of 12 years to give a realistic portrayal of the characters growing up.
Less than a film and more like a home video, Boyhood was shot for a couple of days every year on a budget of about $200,000 a year. Ellar Coltrane who plays the sensitive and brooding Mason was 7 years old and director Linklater’s daughter Lorelei who plays Mason’s sister Samantha was 8 years old at the time they started filming in 2002. And as the film progresses you get to see the actors grow up.
Boyhood is essentially the story of a dysfunctional American family. It’s about how bad marriages screws things up for all involved but how we never really learn from the mistakes of our past or from the mistakes of our parents. Growing pains are real and nothing is easy.
Mom (Patricia Arquette) is divorced from Dad (Ethan Hawke) who seems like he’s a no good guy. Mom is studying to get a degree and make a better life for her kids but she still feels the need to have a man in her life. Her next husband starts off being the picture of a great husband and father but degenerates into a drunk who throws things at his kids. And her second husband also starts off being super hot and cool but then turns to the bottle. Makes you wonder if there isn’t something about marriage and women or kids and responsibilities that turn these otherwise fine guys into drunken pigs.
Through it all Mason and his sister Samantha are shown growing up and experiencing all the things regular teens do. Love, porn, jealousy, sadness, heartbreak, awkwardness, finding themselves are depicted with a realism that makes Boyhood look more like a documentary than a commercial film.
Ellar Coltrane gives a fine and consistent performance considering he has to play his part for 12 years of his life. Child actors rarely grow into fine adult performers but he has. He’s a good son who bonds with his dad and silently puts up with his new step-fathers and watches his mother make some mistakes with her life and her kids but simply moves on. Boyhood isn’t easy but he takes it like a man.
The film is also an interesting insight into the lives of all-American families, their hobbies and pastimes at different stages of life. And Boyhood portrays these stages so well since it is shot in real time over that 12-year period. So you’ll see changes in the technology and the songs people listen to as well. There’s also no need for CGI and prosthetics. All the actors are growing old naturally. Only Ethan Hawke looks like he’s found the elixir of youth!
It’s a long film that is shot simply and brings a fresh breath of reality to cinema that is filled with CGI robots and superheroes that know absolutely nothing about how it is to grow up.