By now, most everyone has at least heard of the movie, Boyhood. After racking up a slew of awards, the IFC Films’ drama was recently nominated for six Oscars, and is the frontrunner to take home the prestigious awards ceremony’s highest honors including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
Most people credit director Richard Linklater’s unique story-telling approach with the film’s success. Linkleter shot the film using the same cast, including his own daughter, for several weeks a year over the course of 12 years. In an interview, Linkleter stated that he dreamed of telling the story of a parent-child relationship from the first through twelfth grades, ending with the son’s graduation.
The production methods were no doubt unprecedented, and Linkleter’s evolving script gave the film a near documentary-esque sense of hyperrealism. However, those who enjoy movies as a sense of escapism may find the movie’s lack of traditional conflict and it’s runtime (166 min.) a bit tedious.
The story follows a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 in 2002 until he goes off to college in 2013. It begins in the aftermath of the divorce of his parents played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Other than Hawke and Aqruette, the other constant in Mason’s life is his sister, Samantha, played by Lorelei Linklater. The rest of the supporting cast was comprised of the usual step-parents, half-siblings, grandparents, and close family friends that seem to compose the fabric of the modern American family.
As a parent, the beautifully flawed nature of Arquette and Hawke’s characters felt natural, and perhaps a little comforting. Despite often living in different cities, and having to weather a myriad of poor, but relatable life decisions, the kids seemingly turn out to be well-adjusted, happy young adults. At the end of the day, that’s all a parent can ask for.
As the name suggests, Linkleter’s approach was through the eyes of young Mason, and as parents in two family situations may relate to, most of the interaction between Hawke and Arquette would have occurred “behind-the-scenes” from Mason’s perspective.
However, I would have enjoyed it if more attention was given to the interactions between Arquette and Hawke, especially in the earlier years. While I do commend Linkleter’s effort to present Mason’s two families existing separately, most families aren't that neatly delineated. Given the strength of Arquette and Hawke’s performances, the experience would have been more complete with increased interaction between the two.
There is a certain uniqueness that comes from watching a child literally grow up before your eyes, and the noticeable aging of Arquette and Hawke adds to the realism of the film. Linkleter’s approach is undoubtedly pioneering, and the movie was full of tender moments. Yet, while Boyhood may deservedly clean house at the 87th Academy Awards in February, don’t be surprised if this film doesn’t end up in your normal weekend rotation.