Boyhood opens with five year-old Mason lying on grass and staring into the sky with Coldplay’s Yellow in the background. Needless to say that within the first five minutes of the film, I knew I was in for something special.
Filmed over twelve years with the same actors, Richard Linklaters’ latest, Boyhood, is much more than experimental cinema.
Documenting the life of Mason between the years of 5 and 18, it’s an epic coming of age story filled with great depth and poetic observations.
A film that’s very much of our time, Linklater uses musical cues from popular bands (Coldplay and Arcade Fire) as well as popular culture references (Dragon Ball Z, X-Box, Facebook) not only as signifiers of time passing, but as a way of transporting a whole generation back to their childhood.
These references not only enrich and enhance the viewing experience but also make for nostalgic viewing to anyone who has “grown up” over the past decade or so.
Nostalgia aside, where the film really works is in it’s honest and well observed portrayal of a broken home. With so many people coming in and out of our young characters’ lives, it poses questions as to how this could shape a person’s personality in the future.
What’s great to see is a focus on the adult characters as well as the young lead, also growing up emotionally and physically in the film.
The hard-working single mother and far too absent father aren’t simple caricatures but are fully formed, three dimensional characters; each have their good qualities as well as foibles.
These characters are all fleshed out with excellent performances from Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and in particular Ellar Coltrane, whose transformation from boy to man is truly wondrous to watch.
The acting as well as Linklaters’ directorial restraint gives Boyhood a naturalistic quality unlike any other fictional film I can remember seeing.
What you see on screen feels real and is completely absorbing from beginning to end.
The only minor issues I have is its length of 166 minutes, which whilst justifiable, means it’s hardly a film you’ll be able to just watch on a whim.
Towards the end it does border on the pretentious, and whilst it worked for me, I think for some people it won’t work as well.
Despite these slight criticisms, Boyhood is still a film that deserves to be embraced and remembered as a modern day classic. It’s a grown up drama that explores the joys, sadness and confusion of life whilst fundamentally promoting familial love. Put simply, it’s a masterpiece.
Image credit to http://www.flicksandbits.com