It is refreshing to finally see an American coming-of-age film that is completely true-to-life. A realistic drama without 25 year olds playing footballers and cheerleaders with impossibly huge proms and parties, but instead an endearing account of family life. When asked what the film is about I believe the only right answer is ‘life’. The film is not a production, but a journey that the audience embarks on to follow the life of little Mason from an innocent child to an awkward teenager and finally, an adult with his whole life ahead of him.
The reason that the film is so ground-breaking is because the shoot spanned an impressive 12 years – director Richard Linklater used the same cast from beginning to end to capture a realistic account of a boy growing into a man. The idea came with huge risks and a rather large amount of commitment – was it worth it?
Boyhood first introduces Mason as an adorable 5 year old, asking endless questions to his single mother and fighting with his older sister. Through the next few years of Mason’s childhood we watch as the family move from town to town, his mother going through various drunken partners, his biological father attempting to build a relationship with his children and Mason trying to understand the rules of life. From then on we start to see the changes in Mason – not just through the haircuts and fashion trends which are completely accurate, but how his confidence, his personality, and his relationships change as he matures. We watch as Mason works out who he is, what he likes, what he wants to do with his life – the questions we all know so well from our youth, but never before has it been captured on screen in such detail and such realism.
The plot worked out great – focusing on those moments that show developments in character with small snippets of drama that keep the plot driven but without pulling away from the story which is primarily about the relationships within the family and Mason growing as a person. There were great moments of light comedy which are irresistibly funny because of their truth – the moment in the cafe when the father talks about contraception was very entertaining and captured the moment perfectly. What I find fascinating is that everybody sitting in the cinema can relate – we’ve all lived a life and had a childhood and while these may vary, the majority of us have all gone through the same basic phases in life. And whether you’re a teenager, young adult, a mother or a father, each aspect of the family is captured so that there is a character for each audience member to relate to.
One thing I was most impressed with was the acting. I loved Patricia Arquette as the mum, convincingly portraying a mother who isn’t perfect at raising her children but tries hard. Her performance towards the end when she began to cry and talked about how she had nothing left to look forward to was utterly believable. The dialogue here was very effective, making the audience want to cry and laugh at the same time and my own mum (who I dragged along to the cinema with me) said how she feels exactly the same way as I myself, her youngest, is flying the nest. Ethan Hawke’s character was brilliant – there was no doubt that everyone was rooting for him to sort his life out and become a great father and friend to his children. Many of the most hilarious moments also came from Hawke’s great performance. And the two children – Ellar Coltrane playing Mason and Lorelei Linklater as Samantha (Richard Linklater’s daughter) were so natural and believable that you could almost believe that you were watching a documentary or something part-improvised.
It wasn’t just the use of the same cast that made the film brilliant, but a combination of this with wonderful dialogue, acting, and clever editing which made it possible to allow a film to be so truthful and magical, accurately representing family life whilst making it thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. A huge success for Linklater, proving that a little dedication can go a long way.