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Boyhood

Richard Linklater filmed Boyhood with the same cast over a 12-year period. The film starts when the young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), is 6 and ends when he leaves home and goes to college at 18.

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Richard Linklater made the coming-of-age story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) over a period of 12 years. At the beginning of the film Mason is 6, and the film ends with Mason leaving his mother’s house for college at 18. I know of only one other film that integrated real time into its production – the Spanish film EL SUR (1983) by Victor Erice. With EL SUR and EL ESPIRITU DE LA COMENA, Erice wrote himself into European film history. He waited 10 years until his young heroine, Estrella, grew up to film her as a teenager for the film. Between the first part of EL SUR, when Estrella is a child, and the second part when she is a little older, the camera focuses its gaze down a long avenue. We see a car with Estrella’s father in it disappearing down a road. Estrella watches it drive away. The screen turns black. Then we see a bike coming down the same avenue. When it is clear to the viewer that it’s the same character but ten years later, one is perhaps less startled by the authenticity of the narrative as by the real passing of time. That is the effect Linklater’s BOYHOOD has on its viewer throughout the film. However, Linklater shot in sequence a year apart with no fade to black to indicate a break in time. The film flows in the same way as any other conventional narrative. From one scene to the next Linklater captures Mason’s growth from a young child to a boy with this own thoughts and the capacity to articulate them, from a shy, pubescent teenager to a confident yet introverted young man. For the most part the passage of time is casual yet a few transitions are as startling as the one in EL SUR. BOYHOOD focuses on the key yet everyday moments in Mason’s life: His older sister (Lorelei Linklater) bullying the six-year-old Mason who doesn’t know yet how to defend himself. He is witness to his parents constant fighting and their subsequent divorce. The couple splits after his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) has had enough of supporting the family on her own while Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) dreams of becoming a rock star.
Linklater is a friendly director who shows sympathy for his main characters. Mason Sr. comes in and out of his kids’ lives, but his slacker lifestyle gives Mason and his sister some stability, while their mother’s attempt to create a middle-class, stable household turns into a nightmare scenario. BOYHOOD is a perfect counterpart to Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE/SUNSET/MIDNIGHT trilogy. The film takes its viewer on a journey through the years. It conveys moments of discovery and understanding as well as moments of happiness. BOYHOOD is also a film about the memories of such moments and a masterful biography of a generation. Despite the technical gadgets from PlayStations to iPhones, the film is less about Mason’s generation as it is a film about Linklater’s own memory of growing up.

Tom Dorow

Credits

USA 2002-2014, 163 min
Language: English
Genre: Drama
Director: Richard Linklater
Author: Richard Linklater
DOP: Shane F. Kelly, Lee Daniel
Montage: Sandra Adair
Distributor: Universal Pictures International Germany
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Tamara Jolaine, Sam Dillon
FSK: 6
Release: 05.06.2014

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