From Richard Linklater, the director of the Before Trilogy and School of Rock, Boyhood was shot sporadically over 12 years with the same cast and crew. It was the front-runner for this year’s Best Picture Oscar but ended up losing out to Birdman. Was the Academy right to snub Boyhood?
From the age of six to eighteen we see Mason Evans Jnr (Ellar Coltrane) over 12 years of his life. We see him deal with his mum’s (Patricia Arquette in her Oscar-winning performance) destructive relationships, his annoying but sometimes loving sister (Lorelei Linklater) and trying to maintain a relationship with his dad (Ethan Hawkes) who has been distant for some of his childhood. Over the course of the movie we watch him grow up as he learns about life, first love and family.
Boyhood is essentially a very simple story and it would be easy to dismiss its process as simple. Except Richard Linklater painstakingly shot this over 12 years using the same cast. So many things could have gone wrong between filming or Linklater could have lost interest in his subject matter over the long periods of filming. However Boyhood is made with such passion and love from all involved that it ends up becoming far from ordinary despite its universal story of childhood.
No doubt some people may leave Boyhood thinking that not much happens, it’s not an overly dramatic film in the traditional sense but as you watch these characters over the years you become emotionally involved with them. You want Oliva to find some kind of happiness, you hope Mason Snr will turn into the father he hopes to be. Special praise must also be given to Coltrane who has to film his awkward years on-screen for everyone to see. He is in practically every scene and as the centre of the film he is a natural, holding it together well with strong support from the more experienced actors playing his parents. You believe their relationships and their development over the years. Nothing feels forced or crass it all plays out rather naturally.
It is Richard Linklater that shines most in this movie. This film was plainly a labour of love and that is what comes across in this movie. It may not be as flashy as Birdman with its seemingly one shot take but considering the work that went behind the scenes and the result on the screen you do wonder if Linklater’s seemingly simple tale was unwisely overlooked by the Academy last weekend? Maybe Birdman‘s take on the acting world also helped nudge its way to the Oscars. Not that Birdman wasn’t a great film, it was. But I can’t help feel a little sad that Linklater’s phenomenal film wasn’t recognised instead (or the even more brilliant Whiplash).
Considering it is 165 mins long (and regular readers know how I feel about loooong movies) it only started to drag a little towards the end. It’s quite impressive that it managed to hold my attention for so long without me complaining too much. Perhaps this was because every scene felt important to the script and not just added for superficial reasons. I actually enjoyed spending time with Mason and his family and wouldn’t mind revisiting them again some day.
Rating 4.5/5 – it may not have won the Best Picture/Best Director Oscars but I have no doubt Boyhood will last long in audience’s minds