Language : English | Running Time : 164 Minutes | Director : Richard Linklater Watching a Richard Linklater movie is like watching life as it unravels. The conversation between Mason Jr.(Ellar Coltrane) and Mason Sr.(Ethan Hawke) when Mason and his girlfriend have broken up is a moment you want to treasure because it is not in every movie that you are given a matter of fact realisation of what life is. When Mason Sr. tells you that there is no real point to life when prodded by his son is what you would have loved to hear at that age. Life would have been so much easier then. It is hard not to get that feeling. A Richard Linklater movie is about such revelations, about such whimsical philosophies being thrown at us in the form of conversation.
Most people are familiar with Richard Linklater’s works through his “Before..” trilogy, a franchise that explored the nature of love through years, a stark exploration by gifting us two wonderful characters. Fans of his work will also be familiar with “Walking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly”, both of which have been movies that have had similar explorations about life and moments of conversational brilliance that have evoked the questions most of us ask ourselves. Boyhood is like a coming together of the questions from the past in the life of a boy as he ages from 6 to 18. In 12 years, we see the themes or questions Richard Linklater explores – love, rebirth, afterlife, life among others come alive and they still remain relevant and fresh. Mason Jr. and Samantha(Lorelei Linklater) are 6 and 8 year olds when we first see them. They are brought up by their mother Olivia(Patricia Arquette), a woman whose life is about responsibilities. She is the sort of single parent whose every milestone is measured by the responsibilities she can cross of her list. She is the kind of person for whom sending her kids away from home for college marks off the greatest responsibility of her life that the next big event on a personal level is her funeral. So, we see her grow to that position in two years, making life choices that are difficult and sometimes stupid. It is the hallmark of a Richard Linklater characterisation where no one is perfect. Like life, everything and everyone have their edges in a Linklater film and Boyhood embodies this stoic realism quite remarkably.
The movie is seen through the aging of Mason Jr. It is reminiscent of Francois Truffaut‘s beautiful screen livening of Antoine Doniel in the way it tries to capture the growing up years of a boy. But unlike Truffaut, who made movies at each stage of the character’s growth, Richard Linklater breathes with time and allows the character to morph, grow and suitably make the movie like a video montage to a boy’s growing up, the kind we sit and watch when the boy has passed away. Remember the home made videos your parents made of you? There’s such loving for Mason Jr. in Boyhood but unlike one watched after death, this is more the kind of movie you see to celebrate what a boy has become.
Richard Linklater’s decision to give us moments of a boy’s growing up is at times frustrating because they seem like little snippets of information than the entire detail itself and a couple of scenes like the one where the Mexican immigrant comes to thank Olivia are excesses that don’t fit in the larger scheme of things but they are endearing nevertheless. Even in his excess, there’s a poetic, albeit mawkish sentimentality that strikes a chord.
In the early parts of the film, Ellar Coltrane looks less sure about his position in the movie and we only see him as a point of view character than the lead itself but as the film progresses, he comes to terms with his position in the film, the confidence blooms, mirroring the character he is portraying. When he is unsure we see the wonderful Lorelai Linklater take the movie away from him and make the movie hers but as the movie progresses, she becomes less important, like every other person in life. Ethan Hawke is stellar yet again. It is remarkable how his association with Richard Linklater has enriched his career. We see him as a man unprepared for parenthood, slowly learning to accept his role and then becoming the kind of parent one could ask for but with a 24×7 presence. His conversation with his children on a car drive about spontaneity in their relationship and his role as a parent is one of the best scenes of the film, a film where every scene looks to outdo the other in what it offers about the people in it.
Boyhood being filmed over 12 years means that we not only see a family grow together and apart but also get to see the pop culture in America changing. We notice a 15 year old boy getting a mix CD from his father, one that dates from the 70s, to the mention of Bright Eyes when the kid turns 18. We see the noticeable difference from hand held video games to Xbox, a boy’s search for identity, the mesmerising fixation with art and culture. It is a film where American parenting comes to life. Boyhood is more than just the story of a boy growing up. There are things in the background as interesting as the people on screen and this is why even Richard Linklater veering off in some scenes doesn’t hurt us or the runtime of 164 minutes hardly registers.
With Boyhood he has once again given us slice of life, conversations that we can hold dear and relate emphatically with, a true Richard Linklater masterpiece. This is a movie for the ages, one that respects and belies time. It is about life, the moments that seize us and how we exist inside this whale called time, forever trying to find the meaning of life when there is no meaning.