Dr. Donna Copeland’s
ETHAN HAWKE PATRICIA ARQUETTE ELLAR COLTRANE LORELEI LINKLATER
Fresh off of his Oscar nomination for Before Midnight, Texas’s favorite auteur, Richard Linklater (Bernie), has delivered perhaps his most genius work to date. On the red carpet, actor Ethan Hawke talked about how excited he was for people to finally see Boyhood after having to keep it a secret for over 12 years. The project might sound like a documentary: filming one scene every year of the same family for over a decade, but Linklater says everything was scripted. Hawke and Arquette came back to Texas each year to film a new scene or aspect in the life of Mason, played by fresh new talent Ellar Coltrane, who literally grows up before our eyes. The entire seamless nature of how Linklater allows us to watch these four characters progress and grow in front of us in a three hour period is phenomenal to watch.
Mason Sr. (Hawke) and Olivia (Arquette) were never great together, but they have remained good friends for their children Mason Jr. (Coltrane) and Samantha (Linklater). Olivia struggles to go back to college and create a decent life for her children, who live with her during the week. On weekends Mason will pick them up and play the cool, fun dad with the great car, but he is a positive influence in their life. The children mature into smart, ambitious teenagers and then become mirrors of their parents, who become influenced by their own re-marriages and second divorces.
It might sound boring to watch a family age before your eyes, but just like he does with the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy, Linklater again demonstrates his vast understanding of human growth and perception through relationship. Hawke referred to the film as an epic, and I think he really summed it up. Films like Gravity and The Lord of the Rings are traditional epics, but epic because of their ambition and scope; Linklater taps into that same challenge and he achieves it to a stunning degree. Boyhood may be his masterpiece in the detail and consistent quality he maintained over the years for this project.
The entire cast is really fantastic in so many different sections of the film. Coltrane admitted that with age he grew into the understanding of what exactly this project was about and how important it was; he was six when he first started. Linklater confines the story within the borders of Texas, with locations in Austin, San Marcos, and Houston. There is a point in the film that we are reminded of just what Linklater is pulling off before our eyes. It goes beyond the parental separation; it’s ground breaking material unfolding before our eyes. It’s the usual assimilation of humor, heartbreak and understanding all rolled into one magnificently beautiful film that Linklater has clearly poured a lot of passion into. This might finally be the Texas filmmaker's road to Oscar.
Final Thought – Linklater has likely just delivered a film that not even he can top; truly groundbreaking material.
By: Dustin Chase
Boyhood is the impressive latest from master filmmaker, Richard Linklater. In some ways, I think it is his best film in that it is a rare approach to casting. He recruited Ellar Coltrane when he was five years old to play the part of the main character, Mason, all through the years until he was 18. The only films I know that are similar are the documentaries by British filmmaker Michael Apted interviewing a group of children every seven years from age seven through adulthood (age 49). But this is a dramatization, which makes it quite different.
Noteworthy is Linklater’s ability to capture the essence of many Americans’ boyhoods, now that blended families are more common than enduring single families. In doing that, he also shows the damaging effects of alcohol abuse, differing parent styles, the relative ease children have in blending versus their parents’, and the changing relationships between parents and children across time.
Mason is an appealing child whose temperament is more toward creative, artistic pursuits than sports, which makes life a little harder for him. However, his inner strengths and clarity of vision provide a buffer for him. His father, who has left the family, is a musician who can’t always find a gig, and his mother is just returning to school aspiring to be a teacher. As the parents take up with different partners with families of their own, the children’s lives become unsettled and uprooted. There are little surprises though, such as Hawke’s fatherhood being more sensible, despite his apparent unreliability in the beginning. Typically, Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette), is the rock in the family, albeit a highly stressed one. She holds it together remarkably well, and the audience cheers her on by the end. Linklater’s sensitivity to women in her plight is remarkable.
The script captures reality in another way by showing how prone parents are to giving their children a continual litany of instructions--whether they're in need of it or not. Linklater's trademark shows through in these exchanges by prompting humor and groaning at the same time. Similar reactions are seen when a child is suffering from some type of disappointment; the tendency is to problem-solve without insight or convey the message that the child should just forget about it and move on, without recognition of the healing functions of grieving and compassion from others. On a more positive note, Linklater provides an opportunity for his characters to grow and mature. This is most evident in the Hawke character, who starts out being a deadbeat dad and ending up the most sensitive father who stays tuned in to his children's lives and teaches them how to talk meaningfully with him. Hawke couldn't be much better in acing this role.
Boyhood concludes with Mason leaving home to go to college, and leaving his mother to deal with an empty nest. It is made more poignant by her deciding to make a significant lifestyle change and her sudden realization of what an empty nest means, an experience well known by mothers (and some fathers) of high school/college graduates.
Mason carries the movie so well, one wonders if he will pursue an acting career or take his life in a different direction. He and his character are very engaging in a quiet way, showing self confidence and a healthy desire to make his own way in life. Linklater’s daughter Lorelei, as his sister Jill provides running entertainment throughout with her spunk and sharp wit.
This is a long film (almost 3 hours), but because of Linklater and teams’ artistry and uncanny ability to capture reality, it seems just right.