In the age of highly technical film making, things that once seemed impossible are now commonplace. For example, editors bask in the tools that allow them to effortlessly make characters progress or regress in age on screen. But what if someone were able to chronicle characters’ lives in real time? In “Boyhood,” that is exactly what writer/director Richard Linklater achieved.
“Boyhood” is a project that completely contradicts Linklater’s longstanding style of offering films that take place over the course of one 24 hour period. To the contrary, “Boyhood” was filmed over an unbelievable period of 12 years with the same cast. But is it the “marvel of film making” that most reviews declare it to be?
When we meet Mason, played by relative newcomer Ellar Coltrane, he is an adorable 6 year old being tormented by his older sister and playing with his friends. Carefree in initial presentation, it isn’t long before viewers are given insight into his young life, primarily at the hands of the adults in his life. Displaying adaptability that borders on the unbelievable, Mason simply keeps on keeping on despite being subjected to alcoholism, domestic violence and multiple abrupt relocations.
Veteran actors Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette deliver powerful performances as Mason’s divorced parents and certainly capture your attention. However, while Linklater has achieved a stylistic first with “Boyhood,” for me, the amazement wore thin upon realizing that like the young Mason, we are all just along for the ride watching as he tries to navigate adolescence tied to a mother who is working hard towards financial independence while going in and out of poor relationships.
“Boyhood” has widely been anointed as “the must see, sure to be Oscar nominated, film of the year,” and has received an almost perfect rating across the board. But I am not entirely sure that I agree. It’s not that I disliked “Boyhood.” But after I got past being in awe of how this story was filmed over more than a decade, I found myself looking for more story wise. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything deeper about the film that made me excited to be in my seat for nearly 3 hours. I liked it. I am not in love with it. And therein lies my problem. When you peel away the uniqueness of how it was filmed, there isn’t enough there to give me cause to tell family and friends to run to the theater to see it.