Not many or any of the filmmakers that have made films in my lifetime have ever taken a chance on a production that would take 12 years in the making. No, Boyhood‘s not one of those blockbuster films that takes years of animation, or documentaries that have a lot of structure, or even Mother Nature events to hold production back. This film’s a drama about ordinary life that spans 18 years in one family’s natural aging process that, not unlike most of us, faces everyday problems and growing pains.
Director, screenwriter and producer Richard Linklater has had a wonderful career with a body of work that most directors envy. Prior to starting production on Boyhood, Linklater directed Dazed and Confused, After Sunrise, Waking Life and The Newton Boys, all had either good box office or/and critical acclaim. He started filming Boyhood in 2002 and during the 12 years that followed, using the same actors, he continued making his momentous project a few days at a time until the aging process of his stars facilitated the finish.
Linklater made several movies during the Boyhood filming period that included School of Rock– 2003, Before Sunset– 2004, Bad News Bears-2005, Fast Food Nation– 2006, A Scanner Darkly– 2006, Me and Orson Welles– 2008, Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach- 2008, Bernie– 2011, and Before Midnight– 2013. So with a legacy like this stellar list, why produce Boyhood 2002-2014? I’m sure the box office will be the jury and the critics the judges. Will he end up with a good return on his investment or just be placated by critics that see this as a creative accomplishment? Sorry, from me, no cigar.
Filmed with the same cast, the movie maker took a chance on availability of some of the industries finest actors. Each year they filmed a day or two in the life of the central character Mason played by Ellar Coltrane. From day one the script started getting reduced page after page until the 6 year old turned 18. Involved in the life study you can see the progression of not only Ellar in his role, but Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Lorelei Linklater that play the parents and his sister Samantha.
Although it’s not a true story, this original screenplay delves into the everyday lives of well, you and most anyone around you. Even though you may not have experienced the affects of divorce, struggled with relocation to another city and a new school, dealt with peer pressure, got involved with a teen romance and was forced to reach out for a better future, you probably know someone who has in most of the situations presented in the film.
Growing up takes a lot of fortitude and self reliance and Mason at age 6 finds himself a child of divorced parents. Not seeing eye-to-eye Olivia (Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Hawke) chose to separate instead of adding their troubles to the already troubled household. Olivia leaves her neighborhood and moves to Houston where she wants to go to college and obtain a higher degree for a better teaching position. After a long hiatus her ex-husband returns from his sabbatical in Alaska where he worked as a logger and starts to get closer to his children. It’s not long before we see the kids growing up and moving on in school right up to college where the film dead ends.
The acting saves the film from total mediocrity, but the mundane existence of the family and their uneventful existence is a real downer. Watching the lives spool out over nearly three hours, I was hoping for a shocking event of sorts to make me gasp. I surely would have liked to have a few tear jerking moments, but that didn’t happen either. So other than an experiment in life lessons what more can you take away from the film? I found very little and am amazed that the movie was even made at all.
Boyhood has been rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use. There are also teen smoking and sexual situations. It should have been rated B for boring or S for so what. The major caution here is that teens that go to see the film will get a bleak look at their future with divorce on the rise and a nomad society portrayed in the film. For adults, it’s a look back at their commonplace past, without the real trauma that got them where they are today.
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, Charlie Sexton, Jenni Tooley, Richard Jones, Karen Jones, Zoe Graham
Directed, Screenwriter, Producer by: Richard Linklater Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Running Time: 2 hrs 46 min
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Distributed by: IFC Films