Boyhood film tracks actor’s coming of age

Courtesy of Global Panorama via Flickr

Courtesy of Global Panorama via Flickr

Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater (School of Rock and Dazed and Confused) was released this past July and is a film not to be missed, breathing nostalgia and slowly leading the viewer on one family’s journey in an unexpectedly evocative way.

The film follows its protagonist, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from age six to 18, illustrating the milestones he and his family experience without the use of dissolves or other transitional techniques. While the storyline of the film is fictional, the actors used are cast for the entire 12 years it took to film, accurately portraying how human beings develop and evolve independently and together as time passes.

While Boyhood does not follow the typical plot paradigm with rising and falling action, it grips the viewer more slowly and intensely with scenes that sincerely capture the moments in a family’s life. Simple moments like bowling excursions or backseat car fights between Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are mixed with more difficult ones like the splintering of a marriage. These scenes are never exaggerated but approached in a more subtle fashion.

“The film is all very personal, and I was hanging onto my own memory … My main thought was, ‘How does my memory work?’” Linklater said in an interview with The Dissolve. “I remember graduation. It was boring, and I was an extra in a big event, and there was nothing personal about it. But I do remember being in a car with my buddy Danny, and he had a drink and we were kind of farting around afterwards. And I do remember my mom talking too much at a little gathering she had for me that I really didn’t want to be at. If something is represented too much, we all bring in too much, and I don’t need to see it represented again.”

In many ways the film narrates the story of the young adults of this generation, following Mason to Harry Potter book sale events, on his canvassing efforts for Hillary Clinton, to typical Friday night red-cup pool parties and finally, to college. Many of the songs on the soundtrack were chosen at the same time the particular scenes they would accompany were filmed, syncing the visual and auditory timing of the film and establishing another layer of authenticity.

“Music is obviously such an evocative nostalgia or memory trigger, for a place and time. You hear a song and pow! You’re back in eighth grade,” Linklater said in an interview with TIME magazine about the reasoning behind the soundtrack, which includes “Hero” by Family of the Year, “Good Girls Go Bad,” by Cobra Starship and “Deep Blue” by Arcade Fire among others.

While many often complain that a book trumps its film version, Boyhood is certainly an instance in which the visual form of a motion picture triumphs over written words. Watching the actors change physically with time is a cinematic approach rarely used before, and the effect is compelling.

The actors in the film act naturally, and one can only be amazed at the luck Linklater had as he chose his actors at such a young age. It is because the actors develop with their characters that they are able to understand the changing hopes and needs of the character they play, making the film a uniquely honest narrative that highlights the growing pains and personal interactions humans collectively experience. Mason and his sister become young adults while their parents mature into a different stage of their lives, their relationships with one another reshaping as they age together.

“It was meant to feel like a document of time, and it was a collaboration very much with the real world and what was going on at any given time,” Linkater said to the The Dissolve. “It does blur the line in the mind.”

Because the film feels so real, it invites reflection of one’s own past as well as an excitement for the future. Its ability to so closely interact with the viewer makes it an awesome accomplishment and a work of art. Boyhood will be showing at the Charles Theatre until Sept. 11.


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