Linklater's film is an impressive twelve-year project that addresses more than a boy's childhood
My only gripe with Richard Linklater’s new film is the title. "Boyhood" doesn’t do justice to the thematically expansive project that Linklater spent 12 years filming. While the story of the film's namesake is compelling, it is the snapshot portraits of the entire family and the examinations of the human condition as they age that make the film a success.
The “Boyhood” family grows and changes over a span of a dozen years and while it is amazing to see the titular character change dramatically on-screen from age 6 to 18, the transformations undergone by the actors that play his parents and sister are equally astounding.
I was impressed to see the film put the same amount of weight on the development of Lorelei Linklater’s character – the director’s daughter. Her progression through adolescence draws equal attention as the boy, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane. Lorelei stands out as a strong actor in the early years of the film and provides another avenue to explore adolescence – from cute to awkward to self-assured.
On screen, Lorelei’s teen years are actually more palatable than those of her fictional younger brother. As the older sister, Lorelei's character gets the birds and the bees talk before her brother, and the audience gets to cringe and laugh as we relive our first time through her. Her performance is honest at every age and portrays the awkwardness of adolescence differently from that of her character’s sibling. She is witty and intelligent and provides respite when her younger brother starts in on the typical teenage rants about society and conspiracy theories.
It is easy to see your own childhood in this film through typical vignettes of first days at school and first loves. However, Linklater’s portrayal of separated parents and how they manage to raise and support their children is what gives the film its lasting impact. While it is easy to be moved by the growth of the younger characters, Patricia Arquette’s role as a mother and her transformation are just as striking.
While the arc of adolescent development can feel a little predictable, the story of Arquette’s character conveys a less familiar but equally important message. It is rare to see a film that closely follows the life of a woman who represents much more than the typical one-dimensional mother role. Arquette’s character must frequently confront real life, while her son often learns about it from a safe distance. Her character is more than a mother, she is an intelligent woman who we are allowed to see struggle and fight for a better life for herself and the people for whom she provides. While her son casually encounters misogyny and politics among his peers, the mother’s encounter with similar subjects tells a subtler story, one that responds to and scrutinizes stereotypical gender roles.
The film's honesty is what elevates Linklater’s epic project. “Boyhood” is not afraid to unveil multiple aspect of its character’s lives. The good and bad get the same plaintive look and then the audience is whisked along to the next frank snapshot.
“Boyhood” is a must see – not just for the sheer scope of the project – but for the impact of witnessing a story told in more than one innovative way.
The film opens at the CCA Cinematheque in Santa Fe August 8.