There has never been a film like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Its concept is quite unique. Linklater says, “I’ve long wanted to tell the story of a parent–child relationship that follows a boy from the first through the 12th grade and ends with him going off to college.” We’ve seen several films where different children are hired by the director. He has one actor playing the boy at six-year-old, another one to play the boy at ten, and so forth. But when Richard Linklater started filming Boyhood in 2002, he hired seven-year-old Ellar Coltrane to play Mason Jr. Living with his divorced mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), and his older sister, Samantha (the director’s daughter, eight-years-old Lorelei Linklater). Ethan Hawke plays Mason Sr, the children’s father who, once in a while comes to pick them up for a week-end and buys them gifts. This small company of actors met yearly with Linklater and his crew, to write and film the story of Mason Jr. 12 years in the making. We witness Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater grow up in the course of this epic film. There is nothing announcing that Mason gets a year older. It’s flowing. Only the hairstyles are noticeable. There is really no story, only daily life. One day Olivia says they are moving to Houston. The kids don’t like it, but soon they’re moving out. We see Mason Jr. going to an event dressed as Harry Potter. Although Olivia is a loving mom, her choice of men tend to go towards the aggressive, alcoholics type. In 2008, Mason Jr. and Samantha help Mason Sr. put some Barrack Obama signs on lawns. Later Mason Sr. marries Annie and the have a baby. Annie’s parents give Mason Jr. a personalized bible and a gun for his birthday. After receiving a scholarship, Mason seems to want to study photography (fitting since the Boyhood experience is reminiscent to snapshots or stop motion photography techniques). And of course, as Linklater promised Mason Jr. goes “off to college”. Mason is a quiet boy and his sister more talkative, and Lorelei Linklater seems to be creating a more consistent character than young Coltrane. But soon, as Mason becomes more independent and his sister less present, Coltrane invests his character with more physical assurance. Ethan Hawke’s Mason Sr. is a man who has not yet found out where he fits (a ‘lovable’ deadbeat dad, if there is such a thing), but that does not seem to worry him too much. He is a calming presence for his son and daughter, away from the histrionics of mom and her latest boyfriend/husband. Let’s not mince words, Patricia Arquette is brilliant. Olivia juggles so many things at once: motherhood, school, work, love, ect. And Arquette makes it look so effortless and nuanced. I doubt Boyhood would be as good without her. And now let’s talk about Ellar Coltrane. He is in every scene in Boyhood, and the film clocks in at 2 hours 46 minutes (a tad too long). And he is so good. It is a phenomenal acting feat. Both he and Lorelei Linklater’s relationships to each other and their parents are so touchingly real and emotional. What is coming through in Boyhood is the love we feel for our families. It is there in every scenes, in every nuances and glances. We connect. What is amazing is that Richard Linklater’s gambit has paid off. In 12 years so many things could have gone wrong. Boyhood is more than an artistic success, it is the best film of the year, and possibly the best film of the decade.
And the Oscar went to… A lot happened between the time the Oscar nominations came out in mid January and Sunday night’s ceremony. Back then Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was the favorite to win Best picture. It won the most awards (over 25) as Best picture, compared to Birdman winning about a dozen so far. According to CriticsTop10.com (http://criticstop10.com), it was included on 536 lists and topped 189 of them — both records by that site’s count. And Birdman? 354 lists; 60 top spots. So what happened that turn the momentum against Boyhood, a film that received such widespread universal acclaim? What made the Academy vote for Birdman? Is it political? You get angry, and then you remember that in 1941 Orson Welles’s masterpiece, Citizen Kane (now considered one of the best American film ever) lost to John Ford’s How green was my valley. Who remembers How green was my valley today? And this is not the only time. Crash winning over Brokeback mountain. Or Saving private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in love. But Sunday night was really shameful. Some critics called it “a travesty”. ‘Nough said! But I am happy for Boyhood‘s only award to Patricia Arquette. A mother playing a mother, Arquette ended her acceptance speech making a plea for equal pay for women in the US. It got cheers from Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep among others.