Everyone can agree that Linklater’s latest film, Boyhood, is a grand achievement in filmmaking, but why doesn’t the film quite stick with you the way it probably should? There are directorial decisions and character qualities that shape this film into a really beautiful epic, but there are also avenues that could have been explored and more open in allowing the audience to feel what this fantastic cast could have provided.
Filmed over a twelve year period, it’s really interesting to see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) come of age within the slice of life snippets leading into his young adulthood. The thing is, once we get there, it feels as if Mason is rather unaffected at times, and can come off more pretentious than sincere. Linklater seems to make a conscious effort to not have this film solely driven by emotions, which is an interesting choice, but doesn’t allow us to see certain emotional responses to incidents that are prevalent in this character’s life. The only time we see Mason act out is when his mother’s second husband points out that he has no respect for their household and his curfew. Mason comes back with a cliched, “You’re not my father” line, and that’s the extent to which we see him react to anything.This also makes it very noticeable that the first half of the film is much more powerful than the second.
What stands out in the first half of Boyhood is that it’s not just about boyhood. The family dynamic is great, giving Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke the room needed to give some of the best performances we’ve seen from the two. Linklater also does a great job in developing the mother’s first husband in a short period of time, his downfall brilliantly alluded to in small doses. If you’re a child of divorce, like many of us are, this depiction of a dysfunctional family will hit home in a very real and unsettling way.
Overall, Boyhood is an extremely unique and riveting piece that takes a lot of nerve and gusto to make. Unanimous nods and awards are rightfully deserved. Richard Linklater has come a long way since writing and directing films like Slacker and Dazed and Confused, and has shown his innate ability to adapt to the times. Boyhood is a sign that he’s only getting better and better as his career progresses, and I believe we still haven’t seen his best.