Boyhood: Best Picture

An unusually bustling independent theatre in Hamilton’s west-end serves as the perfect venue for this year-end screening.  It’s such a delight to finally catch the experiment that is Boyhood on the big screen. Director Richard Linklater’s latest feature is literally 12 years in the making.

It is deserving of a best picture win in my humble opinion.

Boyhood is the writer/producer’s quest to tell a story about growing up. Having difficulty narrowing down to any specific aspect of the process, the concept becomes the (technically impractical) project where Linklater follows a core set of actors periodically over more than a decade.  Thus, in 2002 Ellar Coltrane was cast as a 5-year-old Mason. The director and crew start filming and producing once a year a tapestry of moments that craft the story of his life. We stay with him until he is 18.  We see the whole cast of characters really age on screen.  The result is that this film is truly special.

Unlikely to be seen again in likes of both sheer artistic scope of canvas, and of the subtlety of the brush.  The film’s visuals focus more often on smaller moments in our character’s life.  It is expansive and profound in the selection of those moments, and sets a pace for the feature that is charming and leaves plenty of room for settings with high tensions.  The characters are both sharp and realistic.  We only see slivers of these lives.  Instances and fragments that add up to a larger story we piece together as we seamlessly see our family grow from one scene to the next.  What these moments offer are the best takeaways for the audience.  Cinematic snapshots. People will really savour the thoughts and feelings put forth by the film.

In part we grow too along with him, and see perhaps some of ourselves in Ellar’s performance and that of the cast.  Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke have fantastic roles as the parents, and the director’s own daughter Lorelei Linklater plays Mason’s sister Samantha.  A clever motif throughout the picture is the use of close ups of technology (i.e., videogame consoles or computers in schools) as a method of telling us the year without spelling it out, and transitioning between time periods. It’s also a time capsule of the last decade of current events and pop culture in a way.  A forward thinking tribute to the times: a la Forest Gump. There’s an especially sweet moment when father and son go camping and briefly talk Star Wars – the topic of their discussion is prophetic and hilarious when you consider how long ago the scene was filmed.

It’s fortunate to screen this movie at the end of the year.  During a time when most reflect on where they are what they’ve been up to.  There is a common theme running through all of Richard Linklater’s films.  Starting really in Slacker and real overtly in Dazed in Confused. He is great at finding new ways to express it. That theme is nicely presented as an offhand remark during the closing scene of Boyhood.  Mason and Nicole sit at magic hour outside Austin. She says to him, “You know how people are always saying to seize the moment? Well, I’m thinking it’s the other way around. The moment seizes us.”

Overall this is a stirring picture of unparalleled feats of production.  Certainly to be an instant classic that kept me engaged right though it’s unusual running time.

Check out the trailer.