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SXSW ’14 Review – “Boyhood”

March 16, 2014

Screen shot 2014-03-16 at 9.04.24 PMThis is a stroke of genius, no filmmaker (that I’m aware of) has attempted anything like what Richard Linklater has accomplished in the form of his on-again-off-again 12 year production of his passion project entitled “Boyhood”. Screening the film in Austin at SXSW is sort of a coming home party for the team behind this film; “Boyhood” is a Texas set film through and through. From the East, to the South, to all the far way out West side of the state.

The story itself is quite simple; we follow the journey of a young boy named Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), growing up in a divorced family. Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) & father (Ethan Hawke) are an estranged couple, but somehow manage to balance out sharing their kids in an agreeable manner. Mason, along with his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), the kids live out their childhood with ups and downs that many kids may have gone through; the awkwardness of going to a new school, moving, troubled home life (abusive/alcoholic), pre-teen angst, teen angst, young love, and soon enough graduating high school & off to college.

People will be talking about this film for ages, is the method of how it’s production was formed. [Richard] Linklater wanted to show us a film about childhood, he wanted to do it the right way, and by casting one boy who was committed for the long run (literally) would be the beacon he needed to move this picture along. Casting his long time collaborator/friend, Ethan Hawke as Masons dad, and bringing in Patricia Arquette as mom, “Boyhood” was a production that had been the talk of the world in cinema for over a decade.

One month out of the year, for 4-5 days of shooting, the production team would come together, shoot their scenes needed for that particular time, wrap, and would return one year later. In the midst of this complicated production, Richard Linklater brought us many films, including “School of Rock”“Before Sunset”“Fast Food Nation”“A Scanner Darkly”“Bernie”, and “Before Midnight”. There’s this overwhelming sudden realization one has while watching “Boyhood” that throughout the yearly production, Linklater made all these other films in the process of making this personal project.

For many, “Boyhood” will be a cinematic time capsule, bringing us back to times we remember/cherish. The ones who’ll resonate the most from this film are people between the ages of 18-27. I had major flashbacks seeing things like the first Xbox & “Halo” game, the moments when Mason goes to the midnight book release of the fifth Harry Potter book, or the debate about who was the better villain in “Star Wars Episode III”.

Screen shot 2014-03-16 at 9.47.38 PMLinklater captured moments that seemed somewhat generic for the time, and then he captures interesting pieces of foreshadowing for the coming future. There’s a moment in the film (set in 2006) where Mason and his dad go camping, Mason’s dad out of the blue asks his son, ‘You think they’ll ever make another Star Wars movie?’ The audience reaction was just right, and then that spooky chill where you realize, ‘Whoa, they asked that question five years before it was announced that there would be an episode 7!’

But, the greatest thing to take away from “Boyhood” is the fact that we’re watching a child grow up right before our eyes in three hours. We grow an attachment to this boy, we see his troubles, we see his triumphs, and we see his love. The moment we see Mason drive a car for the first time, we’re overwhelmed with the excitement that our boy is finally driving for the first time! If a movie can create these kinds of feelings, it’s accomplished something more than brilliant storytelling…

GRADE: A-

Aaron Shore, is a contributing blogger for the film sites of Hudak on Hollywood & Midnight Reviews.

You can follow Aaron on Twitter @DoubleAAProd

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