First up, in the best picture nominated movies, after The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I watched pre-Oscars and already blogged about….Boyhood. I had not even heard of this film until its nomination. The primary piece of information that I picked up was that the same actors were filmed over 12 years to create this coming of age epic. That in itself is an extraordinary cinematic accomplishment. However, that being said, I wasn’t sure if I would like this film. I decided to view this movie first, and get it out of the way!
Boyhood stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Lorelei Linklater. It was written and directed by Richard Linklater. This drama is rated R, for language and scenes with teen drinking and drug use, and has a run time of 2 hours and 44 minutes. Boyhood was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Hawke, Best Supporting Actress for Arquette, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing. Arquette picked up the only win.
Filmed over 12 years, Boyhood follows Mason (Coltrane) as he grows up, from early childhood to the beginning of his freshman year in college. Not only do we watch Mason mature, but we watch his older sister Samantha (Linklater) grow up too and observe the changes in life for his divorced parents, Mason Sr. (Hawke) and Olivia (Arquette). In many ways, Mason is a typical boy, oft times plagued by his sister, wishing his parents would reconcile, more interested in video games than school.
As he matures, his intelligence and curiosity about life emerges. He’s just not that into school and sports. He does discover that he loves photography and has a gift for creating art. Not only does Mason mature, going through rites of passage, disappointments and the excitement of first love, his sister and parents journey through life with struggles and triumphs of their own. Boyhood is a poignant look at how a family interacts, supports and sometimes undermines each other as they journey.
I was a little concerned when I read the run time for this film. Granted, capturing 12 years of life for a film would translate into a lengthy movie, however, I wondered if there would be enough of a storyline to capture my interest once the novelty wore off of watching the actors actually age up with their characters. And, that was fascinating, to see each person age, sometimes from one scene to another, rather than bringing in different actors for each age progression or using prosthetics and make up to achieve the aging affect. What a novel idea and monumental undertaking by Richard Linklater!
The story moves a bit slowly, early on, although I found my heart touched by Mason and Samantha, who were impacted greatly as their young mom and dad each struggled with life while attempting to parent well. The dad dreamed of being a singer and song writer and had a hard time holding on to a job. He loved his kids though, and made the supreme effort to be with them every weekend. The mom moved through a series of relationships while she continued her higher education, seeking a better life for herself and her children. As the movie progressed, the story got better and better.
I enjoyed watching the transformation of all four of the major characters. The dad settled down, giving up on his music aspirations to sell insurance, marry again and father another child. The mom finally came into a greater awareness, freeing herself from one bad marriage after another, focusing on her life as her children headed off to college. There was sadness in her as her youngest, her son, leaves for college. “I thought there would be more,” she sobs, referring, I believe, to how quickly the years passed and her longing for a bigger life. The sister, Samantha, blazed a trail for her brother, moving away first from home to attend college, the bond between the siblings forged through all the years of looking out for each other.
And Mason, as he grew up, captured my attention most of all. I loved his questioning mind, his different view of the world, his lack of concern for what other people thought of him. He allowed his perceptions to become a way of creating art, and a way of life. There was such soulfulness in his eyes that others sometimes mistook for melancholy. At the end of the movie, as Mason sits with a new girl friend in the beautiful canyons of Texas, they discuss the phrase “seize the moment”. Perhaps, they conclude, it is really the moments that seize us, for this moment is all we have.
Boyhood was a powerful movie with an intriguing format and a great cast that committed to a lengthy project to tell a compelling story. Rather than being relieved that I’ve crossed it off my list, I am thoughtful tonight as I head to bed. I like it when a movie stays with me and makes me think.
Ellar Coltrane as he aged up portraying Mason.