Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Plot: The life of Mason Evans, from age of 5 to 18.
Review: Boyhood has already gained lots of Oscar buzz heading to the ceremony in a couple of weeks, mostly due to Richard Linklater's unique decision to film this over the course of 12 years, taking about a week per year. It's a very bold move indeed, since anything could have happened in that time which can potentially derail such an ambitious project.
Linklater basically takes the same actors for about a week each year and shoots the story as it goes along, so the audience gets a unique experience of watching the film's characters grow old over time. The focus is on young Mason, who lives with his mum and sister, and occasionally meets his dad from time to time, and how he learns the lessons of life, from moving to a new place, getting a new family when his mum remarries and later divorces, making new friends, picking up bad habits from them, getting a girlfriend, taking up photography and finally graduating and going to college.
It must be said that this story, while unique and yet still hits most of its dramatic beats, isn't quite easy to sit through. For one thing, Linklater avoids the usual Hollywood cliches of making a kid's growing pains to be full of drama and tragedy, instead opting for a subtle and mostly normal journey. While it's different, it can get a bit tiring and by the time you get to the final third of this 165 minute epic, you may just want it to get to the point, and even then, you might not get it if you don't feel it.
To their credit, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are excellent as Mason's parents. Watching them grow old as they raise Mason in their own way is interesting. Arquette is the hardworking mum trying her best to take care of two kids while pursuing the job she needs, and successfully makes you feel for her during her highs and lows. Hawke is also solid as the father who imparts good wisdom on his kids despite not always being there for them after splitting from their mother. He is clearly not the perfect dad but he is essentially a good man, a fact that Hawke nails perfectly. Lorelei Linklater is all right as Mason's sister Sam, but the focus is mostly on Ellar Coltrane of course. While he nails the young Mason very well, his performance starts to sink when he becomes a teenager. Now, I don't know if it was intentional, but he seemed to be putting on the same expression all the time and looking aloof at this point, which didn't really work for me.
I will give credit though to Shane Kelly and Lee Daniel for the great cinematography, and some great choice music by Coldplay, Gotye and others that reflect the specific times in the film. Also, great original music by Ethan Hawke which he performed in the film.
So what I can say is Boyhood is very ambitious and one-of-a-kind, even though this reviewer didn't feel it working so well at times. But it's a film that everyone should give a shot watching. (7/10)