Richard Linklater’s masterful new movie BOYHOOD chronicles one family’s journey through time - focusing primarily on Mason, a 6 year-old boy who we first see engulfed by the green of a meadow, gazing up at the clouds in a clear blue sky - dreamy and contemplative - peering at a “hole” in the firmament - indicative of a spirited intelligence and a demanding curiosity which becomes more apparent as we accompany him through the seasons of his life till he becomes 18 years old. What makes this movie so rare and acutely natural, is the director’s use of identical actors - Linklater reunited the same cast a few days annually - over the span of 12 years to film a narrative based on fiction, though (according to interviews I read with the director) some parts are semi- autobiographical. We the audience are privy to the ease of the character’s interactions, the resilience of relationships, the corporeal transformations, the disappointments, struggles, and joys as we pass through the unknown that is the span of their lives, echoing the stories of our own odysseys.
Ellar Coltrane as Mason gives a performance that is not a performance but a revelation - an uncovering of a presence — the son of a divorced woman (a luminous Patricia Arquette) who is responsible for the care of her two children; a carefree, unaccountable, but loving father (Ethan Hawke in another terrific role) and the ever-present sibling (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter, a feisty budding actor playing the sister) who is three years older and both annoyed and annoying to her little brother. The tribulations on the path from childhood, when we do not have much control over one’s life to adulthood, when you do have the ability and capacity to make choices for yourself - are documented with an honesty which pays attention to details that are both intricate and commonplace.
There is a lot of familial affection in BOYHOOD as each individual in the movie reconciles, adapts or rebels at changes in his/her situation. Adults make mistakes - the ever-watchful mother is equally observed by her vigilant son who is sensitive to nuances in the glances and expressions that pass between grownups, which only a child can sense intuitively, without fully grasping their intent and personal significance. Mason is a rangy, affable young man - good-natured, perceptive, and literally probing - investigating the world around him, be it by asking THE existential questions such as - how do we find and express that kernel of ourselves distinct from others - or in his teens examining the poetry of phenomena and wonder with a camera.
BOYHOOD could have been titled FAMILY-HOOD; the dynamics of the nuclear family are played out from the drama of routine financial burdens to the thrilling awakenings and complexity of sexual attraction, love, friendship and loss. The continuous unfolding of the passage to maturity is breathtaking in its subtlety. Before our eyes we witness the entry to confidence and self-awareness using a cinematic technique that is unique; one scene smoothly flowing into the next communicating that time moves on relentlessly - and we are all caught up in the undulations of the tides.
Link to Interview with director Richard Linklater: