During my short stay in Amsterdam I had to chance to check out Boyhood, a film that’s really about nothing, but at the same time it’s kinda about all kinds of stuff.
Ellar Coltrane, the main protagonist in Boyhood, grew up over the course of filming, starting out when he was 7 years old and finishing by the time he was 19.
Boyhood is the most recent film by Richard Linklater, which apparently just came out in Europe by looks of theaters in France, Belgium and Holand over the last month. It’s a very special film in that it was filmed over the course of 11 years using the same cast and production crew.
The film tells the live of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister Samantha (Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei) growing up in Texas with their single mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette). At the beginning of the film, Mason is 6 years old and his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) is trying to get back with Olivia.
Mason’s childhood is filled with many scenes I could relate to growing up, but there were also some moments that were shocking and interesting too. For instance, when Mason attends his first day in elementary, the class teacher makes the kids pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, but then kids are also required to pledge allegiance to the flag of Texas. Kids say the words like mindless drones and to a guy who didn’t grow in the United States, like me, it’s fascinating.
The film’s narrative is very subtle, with few post-production effects from what I could see, and the framing and camera angles give the overall impression that the film is being recorded by a family member we never see. In a way it’s tone is melancholic and as the film moves forward, it evolves into nostalgia as you can’t help but remember how the kid’s voices used to sound two hours ago when the film began.
On paper, Boyhood is the story of a kid from his early goings in elementary school until he starts his freshman year in college. In that sense you could say that there’s really nothing out of the ordinary in Mason’s life, but even so, it feels so real that it’s hard to lose interest in every character’s life, not just his. What’s behind the central plot is way more interesting, because you may find Mason is your most relatable character or maybe you can’t stand Samantha, but deep down the stories each share are compelling.
My hat goes off to Arquette, who did an amazing performance as a single mother of two trying to get a job while finishing her college degree and looking for someone new. Almost all the drama in the film centers on her and in the end she’s the glue that keeps the rest of the cast together, even when the kids are all grown up and gone.
Clocking in at almost 3 hours, I felt Boyhood was too close to the line between giving me the full story and over-sharing, because once Mason graduates it’s as if the film has nothing else to say. It’s a cliché, but just like life, Boyhood is mostly about the journey and not so much about the destination.
Super Review is a column where I look at films, video games and comics when I have the chance to watch, play or read them. It is purely subjective and full of opinions you shouldn’t take too seriously. For more, check out the archive.