By Tristan Laferriere
Filmmaker Richard Linklater has been an important face in America’s independent cinema for the past 20 years. However, up until only a few months ago, many may have still labeled him as the guy who brought us “Dazed and Confused.”If you have been fortunate enough to have made your way to any of the limited theaters across the nation that Linklater’s latest 12-year project is being shown in, you may be seeing what many critics are already considering Oscar bait. The name of the film is “Boyhood,” and Richard Linklater has truly broken boundaries with the idea of filmmaking.
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke — and featuring one of the best movie soundtracks since “Pulp Fiction” — “Boyhood” follows the seemingly ordinary life of Mason from the ages of six through 18, over a span of 12 years. Rather than change actors to portray this one character, Linklater has tried something unheard of in the film industry. He used the same actors from the first day of shooting in 2002 until filming wrapped up in the fall of last year. And while this at first might seem like a gimmick just to draw an audience in to watch, it definitely adds to the story.
I actually went to see “Boyhood” with lower expectations than I should have. The idea of viewing a film that took 12 years to make was probably what prompted me to see it in the first place, so yes — I was a victim of the “gimmick.” Well, all I can say is that only minutes after the first images of “Boyhood” flashed across the big screen, I was taken aback by this work of art.
The plot is simple enough: An eight-year-old boy, Mason, is shown growing up with his older sister, Samantha, and his struggling single mother as they move from place to place throughout Texas. Mason battles issues with relationships, sibling rivalry, bickering parents, high school and almost all other clichés of a boy growing up in contemporary American society. However, this isn’t to say that “Boyhood” is a cliché. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The reason this movie is so special is that we as an audience are looking at ourselves and become completely haunted by what we see. It is as if we’re looking back at our own childhoods through the story of Mason and comparing it constantly to our own life decisions.
The true beauty of “Boyhood” comes from the incredible performances. The performance by Patricia Arquette is definitely one of the better in all of cinema. The role of the single mother struggling to make a happy and healthy home for herself and her children has been done before, but Arquette has created a character that is so real that at times we wonder if she is really acting. To add to the realistic quality of this picture, I couldn’t help but notice that it seemed like almost none of the actors were wearing makeup. Yes, this is a small detail, but a crucial one at that. This is a movie showing real people and what real people truly look like.
All in all, “Boyhood” is truly unlike anything I have ever seen before on film, yet it is something that almost all of us have seen in real life. Linklater’s modern tale of an ordinary family makes an unordinary sort of picture in which the actors seem to be playing themselves, and the audience is seeing themselves on the big screen for the first time without the boundaries of Hollywood fakeness. If you want to see a memorable film, “Boyhood” is a masterpiece and surely bound to be Linklater’s next classic.