Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood
"Intimate and insightful even in its weaker moments, Linklater finds strength and value in normality."

There is no doubting the accomplishment of Richard Linklater's latest film, particularly for those who are interested in the evolution of the director's work. Started back in 2002 - the year Mulholland Drive and A Beautiful Mind came to British cinemas and a full two years before Facebook was founded - the director, then 42, decided to film the entire fictional childhood of one boy, tracking the same cast and shooting periodically over the next 11 years.

It was a bold experiment and the result, as you might expect given the constraints, is not a perfect product, but it is a fascinating and enjoyable way to spend 164 minutes, which shows not just the growing character of its central figure but also the increasing skill of the cast and the filmmaker.

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We first meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane) when he is around six years of age, living with divorced mum Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his elder sister Samantha (Linklater's own daughter Lorelei) and doing weekend dad stuff with Mason Snr (Ethan Hawke). Despite the conceit of the film, Linklater takes a relaxed approach to his timescale, dipping in and out of Mason's life at different points in the year - and for different periods - so that the restrictions never feel formulaic.

At the premiere of the film in Sundance Linklater admitted that even though the film had been edited as he had gone along, he had gone back to make the links between the time periods less obvious and arty, with the switches noted by ever-changing hair dos rather than intertitles or other obvious signposts. It was a wise decision and I don't doubt that if Linklater could have got in his time machine, he might well have reduced the amount of familial incident which his younger self used to drive the story forward as well. It's notable that after three or four years in which marriages and domestic strife come and go, the film settles into a much more familiar and relaxed Linklater rhythm, where the world view of the characters is more important than what is happening to them. It is not just the things that children do that he captures but the unique perspective they have on family life - the things they see that adults are often unaware of and the way that they learn between the lines.

Linklater finds moments of revelation within childhood meanderings so that we learn culmulatively, along with Mason, life lessons such as the fact that adults will constantly try to download their values and expectations into you and that part of growing up is gaining the ability to break away from that. He is helped enormously in his task by Coltrane and Lorelei. Casting the youngsters was always going to be a calculated risk in terms of what acting talent they would grow up to have but whether through nature or nurturing from an excellent director, Arquette and Hawke, both children age naturally and skilfully with their roles, improving enormously through the runtime to an ending that is sweetly poignant. Intimate and insightful even in its weaker moments, Linklater finds strength and value in normality. It may have been an experiment but the end result has all the right chemistry.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2014
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The story of a youngster told over a 12 year period.
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Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Tamara Jolaine, Nick Krause, Jordan Howard, Evie Thompson, Sam Dillon

Year: 2014

Runtime: 163 minutes

Country: US


BIFF 2014
Karlovy 2014

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