Boyhood

Believe all the hype about Boyhood. It’s a monument. While it’s perfectly consistent with the rest of Richard Linklater’s work, it’s like no other film I know. Watching it last night was like watching both The Last Picture Show and The Squid and the Whale all in one. It’s full of Texana, but also portrays the American family with such clarity for the first time. At two hours and forty minutes – and I am a downright crank about films taking too long – I was sorry to see it end.

Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood."

Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater in Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.”

Shot over 11 years with the same cast, it’s a testament to the principle of the “forward momentum” device that this film works as well as it does, since all it really has to go on is the artificial momentum of the looming milestones in its hero Mason’s life. In most scripts, when the suspense that results from some clash of characters is coming up too light, writers are advised to add some “forward momentum” in the form of an occasion: a road trip, a pregnancy, or ticking time bomb, or a birthday party that all the characters have to attend, or anything that characters can anticipate.

Linklater deftly saves most of these for the last twenty minutes of Boyhood, but it never feels like a gimmick. Minutes before it ends, Mason asks his father, played by Ethan Hawke, what it (growing up) is all about, and his father says something like, How the hell should I know? They’re talking about life but they could be talking about the film. Linklater’s few missteps seem like the result of a filmmaker who lost his nerve and needed to graft some more narrative over his wounded story, most notably in the form of an immigrant laborer who reappears years later to thank Mason’s mother for her parental advice. The exchange telegraphs what was already a clear narrative thread, that family and strangers alike dispense advice to the young, but the young have a knack for sifting through the good  from the bullshit. Like Slacker, but much more subtly, since you’re watching the haircuts and not listening to the rambling, Boyhood is about the good and bad advice a kid grows up with, and the fits and starts of learning to value a father’s advice in particular.

If Richard Linklater doesn’t get at least a Best Director nomination, then I will never utter the phrase “Academy Award” again in my life.

 

Comments

  1. I loved this movie and am glad to see that you did too.

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