Boyhood is Richard Linklater’s new film, telling the story of the coming of age of Mason and Samantha, a pair of ordinary siblings, experiencing the growing pains and the inevitable changes time brings on the modern American family unit. The film’s narrative grows organically alongside its characters (both on the screen and off of it), offering snapshots of maturation strung together with masterful continuity, a difficult undertaking given Linklater’s attempts to marry this colossal 12 year project with his typical narrative flair.
With production taking 12 years, (beginning in 2002 as the “Twelve Year Project” of short films), the film flourishes with an almost documentary-like truthfulness, as you notice the small things in the actors such as their voices, their changing styles or the spots developing on their faces as they experience puberty. The film twists and turns as the characters (and the actors) develop into adulthood. It’s hard to imagine the trials and tribulations of a 12 year production cycle, I can only imagine the difficulty Linklater must have gone through in his quest to tell this cinematic story in the most painful attention to detail. But without a doubt, as a spectator, the film seems worth the hassle, reaching almost unknown peaks of cinematic authenticity.
Expect a slow journey, as the narrative flows gracefully along, introducing new characters at the drop of the hat, and unafraid to pick op loose ends at a moments notice. A film to lose yourself in, it’s not always an easy ride, its focus on the intimate conversations in life, often banal, mimic those experienced in reality; conversations about the Beatles’ Black Album or about where you might want to go to University. It’s a carefully contrived trip through life like none other, athough its brilliance no doubt rests on its intricate, painstaking production.
Burning slowly, the narrative develops and matures, treading Mason and Samantha’s path through life from the innocence of youth to the twilight years of university, without ever losing itself along the way. Written with a clear purpose, the film tells the story of the formative years of life with genuine emotional sensitivity. The film rewards patience, maturing with its characters as they grow; characters that aren’t sticking around for longer than they’re needed, much like those vague figures we try to remember when looking back on our lives, creating uncompromising authenticity.
Ambiguous throughout, due in no small part to the fact that an 18 year story is being told over a 3 hour film, produced over 12 years, requiring some effort on your part to fill in the gaps, though it’s always meticulously consistent, both with the maturation curve of the characters, and with the realities of growing up, helping to create bonds that last, until eventually we’re able to feel as if we truly know the characters and all of their quirks, and setting the scene for many truly beautiful moments.
It would seem that everything Linklater has worked for before this point, with his attentiveness to his actors, and his carefully crafted storytelling, has been leading to this monumental piece, truly a once in a lifetime film for a director, a film that I’m sure will remain as interesting (for its magnitude, if nothing else) in 10 years as it is today. For me, this has cemented Linklater as one of the directorial greats, having established a style as distinct as any other in contemporary American cinema, with this film probably being the one we’ll remember long after he’s gone.
To conclude, There’s nothing trivial about this experiment in cinematic storytelling, which can’t be described as anything but a massive success. 3 hours long, yet always managing to feel fresh and always finding something genuinely fascinating to say, it manages to connect the dots of childhood like nothing that’s come before it. Though its sheer scope might make it intimidating for some.