Monday, 7 July 2014


Like a fictional version of Michael Apted's Seven Up series, Richard Linklater has been making Boyhood with the same cast for TWELVE YEARS, making Terrence Malick's trademark lethargy look like Ben Wheatley on speed. Keeping the same actors throughout filming in order to realistically tell the story of one family's voyage through a son's formative years would make Boyhood a remarkable experiment, were it not for the fact that it doesn't feel at all experimental. It's as assured and heartfelt a coming-of-age tale as you'd hope, and its central gimmick serves only to elicit 100% audience investment in the characters. It's also a sweet, brave film that turns out much better than one which opens with Coldplay's Yellow has any right to be.

Ellar Coltrane is Mason Jr., the boy whose hood we watch develop over the film's 166 minutes, and while that sounds like an arse-torturing running time, after about thirty of those minutes I never wanted it to end. Ethan Hawke's feckless, flighty Mason Sr is a lovable rogue, Patricia Arquette the sympathetic, put-upon single mum and the suspiciously-surnamed Lorelei Linklater plays Mason Jr.'s precocious sister Samantha with all the teeth-grinding annoyance that precocious sisters possess in spades.

While very little drama unfolds in the lives of these guys that you wouldn't get in any similar household in the western world, Linklater instead picks out tiny moments to represent the ceaseless march of time: painting over a height chart on a door frame; excitement over a new Harry Potter book giving way to the realisation that there's no such thing as elves; the old birds-and-the-bees talk with dad that's never not excruciating. Mason Jr. spends much of the film with no clue whatsoever what to do with his life, which frankly I can relate to enormously, and it's refreshing to see a film like this where the central character isn't driven by convenient plot machinations.

Its mundanity is admirably realistic, but I did find myself occasionally craving melodrama - a meteor striking the house, a zombie invasion, Danny Dyer buying the local pub, anything - but I immediately hated myself for doing so. Boyhood isn't what we've been taught to expect from family dramas and soap operas over the decades, and what it lacks in thrills it more than makes up for in honesty and affection. For nearly three hours you're welcomed into the family, and you're happy to stay in their embrace for the next twelve years.

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