Life inspires art. Art imitates life. But where it truly makes our heart sing is when they both meet at the intersection for it is in that moment when we get to experience the best of both. It’s extraordinarily rare in today’s cinema to come across something that hasn’t been done before, seen before or experienced before, and in addition to that the recent shift in studio’s approach to filmmaking has only killed most of the novelty which once existed in this medium. In a time when most films being released are either sequels, prequels, remakes or starting points of new franchises, there finally comes a picture which stands completely alone but also reaffirms the faith that the cinematic art form is all but lost.
For its ambition alone, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood deserves a special mention for the cinematic medium is well over 100 years old yet this is one production that was carried out on such a scale for the very first time. Filmed intermittently over the course of 12 years with the same cast, bringing on screen the lives of their characters while they age for real and crafted with remarkable intimacy which leaves a lasting impression of its own, what we have here is the quintessential coming-of-age story that captures little glimpses of our very own lives unlike any example before, is the closest cinema has ever come to replicating real life on film canvas & is amongst the greatest filmmaking achievements in the annals of cinema which won’t soon, if ever, find its equal.
Boyhood tells the story of the younger members of a broken family & covers their journey from childhood to adulthood as they literally age in front of our eyes in the span of its limited runtime. However, the main focus is on Mason’s life who’s introduced to us as a six-year-old boy living with his single mother Olivia & older sister Samantha, and from then on it depicts one casual event from each year of his life until he’s off to college. But it’s not just his journey that’s covered here for we get to see the changes brought by time in the lives of his parents & sister as well. Also, the film never aims to focus on the life-changing episodes but instead picks up any random moment that are usually specific to that particular age & tries to present it in the most heartfelt manner.
Written & directed by Richard Linklater, Boyhood presents the esteemed filmmaker at the very pinnacle of his already impressive career for what he manages to accomplish here is something most directors can only dream of. It’s not just his most ambitious & unique film to date but is remarkable enough to deserve the tag of Linklater’s magnum opus. The screenplay is an amalgamation of twelve different scripts, one for each year, which in the end forms a cohesive whole. Also providing further realism to its narrative is its finely executed & grounded technical aspects. Cinematography makes minimal use of camera movements & nicely captures each sequence while Editing provides seamless transition from one segment to another throughout its 165 minutes of runtime.
The film also makes exquisite use of pop-culture references like the midnight release of the sixth Harry Potter book or the presidential elections in order to indicate the passage of time & even its soundtrack is filled with songs which are perfectly in tune with the timeline depicted, beginning with Coldplay’s Yellow & concluding with Arcade Fire’s Deep Blue. Coming to the performances, Boyhood features an incredibly committed cast in Ethan Coltrane (Mason Evans Jr.), Patricia Arquette (Olivia Evans), Lorelei Linklater (Samantha Evans) & Ethan Hawke (Mason Evans Sr.) who all chip in with excellent work in their given roles but what’s even more amazing is the terrific chemistry they share with each other & just how convincing their characters look.
To see each one of them literally age by so many years inside 3 hours of runtime, to witness the young cast’s body & voice morph naturally as they pass through adolescence, and to know that the kids we’re introduced to in the beginning & the young adults we meet near the end are the exact same people & not different actors, these things do end up leaving a profound feeling of its own which can’t be put into words. The film does contain snippets of our own lives in one way or another but it will be different for every viewer for some of them will connect with Mason or Samantha while others might end up finding something more in common with their parents. But as far as the spirit of childhood is concerned, Boyhood nails it with stunning precision.
Listening to stories before going to sleep, constantly fighting with your siblings only to make up in the next instant, the frustration of getting an unwanted haircut, moving from one place to another just because your parents have to whether you like it or not, spending hours playing video games, returning home later than you’re supposed to, countless lectures from grown-ups about the life ahead, going on trips with your loved ones, experimenting with newer things, finding a passion for something or someone, your first serious relationship which didn’t work out & remaining completely oblivious to what lies ahead, it’s in moments like these where Boyhood makes an indelible mark on its audience & makes them see in the film their very own portrait.
On an overall scale, Boyhood is an exquisite ode to growing up which completely defies all conventions of filmmaking, is crafted with meticulous care n relentless dedication & has something in store for all its viewers. While some may complain about the lack of any definite plot as well as no sense of where it is headed, I see those elements to be a reflection of the unpredictability of life itself. Transcending almost every limitation of filmmaking to realise its larger than life ambitions, Richard Linklater’s latest feature is an absolute masterpiece which also qualifies as one of the most accomplished, admirable & daring works of 21st century cinema. Undoubtedly the strongest & most deserving contender for Best Picture Oscar this year, Boyhood is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.