Probably every American interested in film saw Boyhood (trailer) long before I did last week, but somehow I missed it in theaters and, as Boyhood emphasizes, time passes . . . ! From the beginning, the idea of a film following the same actors over a protracted period was both interesting and risk-laden. What if some calamity or professional conflict overrode the cast’s ability to continue? I wonder whether director Richard Linklater cast his daughter Lorelei in the film as a partial insurance policy against that eventuality? She plays as the main character’s annoying older sister Samantha. Quite nicely, too.
Cast intact, filming proceeded off and on for a dozen years, following Mason Evans, Jr. (played by Ellar Coltrane), from ages six to eighteen, and the continuity of characters across situations, levels of maturity, and the ups and downs of life makes for a compelling narrative concept. All the main parts are well acted, including the kids, the parents (Ethan Hawke and Academy Award-winner Patricia Arquette), and the mother’s problematic husbands. The script grew organically, evolving based on what went before (like life), as well as on experiences in the real lives of the actors.
Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason’s biological father, is a person of local interest, having grown up about a mile from where I live. (A few local junior high girls helped answer his fan mail in the early years.) The stage was set for this feat of filmic time travel in Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight trilogy, in which Hawke also starred, and he calls this latest film “human time-lapse photography.”
While many wonderful things can be said about the slow unfolding of personality that the movie conveys, to me it was about a half-hour too long (at 2 hours, 45 minutes), perhaps because I felt insufficiently engaged with the characters at any age. Having shot footage at all these different ages and stages, it’s as if the filmmakers felt obliged to use more of it than they absolutely had to.
Rotten Tomatoes critics rating: 98%; audience rating: 83%.