Posts Tagged ‘American Independent films’

One of my book club mates saw ‘Boyhood’ when it came out and he has been raving about it since. So, I thought that I should watch it sometime. When I discovered that it was directed by Richard Linklater, I was quite excited. I fell in love with Linklater after watching ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset’ and was wondering why he didn’t make more movies. Well, he has done that now. Now, about the movie. 

Boyhood Directed By Richard Linklater

‘Boyhood’ is, as the title implies, about the life of a boy who grows up to be a young man. Mason is six years old when the story starts and he lives with his sister Samantha and his mother Olivia. Olivia is a single mom. Mason’s dad visits them occasionally and takes them out for fun activities, but he is not really involved closely with their lives. Olivia gets involved with men who are nice in the beginning – one is her professor in college, another is a veteran of the Iraq / Afghanistan war – but in the end they all tend to be bullies who get drunk and treat her children not-so-well. The story closely follows Mason’s life – how he misses his friends every time the family has to shift because his mom breaks up with an abusive boyfriend / husband, how he gets used to a new school and makes new friends and sometimes has to confront bullies, his friendship with his mom’s new husband’s children, his interest in art and photography and the other transformative and messy things that happen in life like drinks and drugs and love, which is all part of growing up. Though we see the story mostly from Mason’s perspective, we also see a lot of Olivia, Mason’s mother – in the way she struggles to find love, how she has to work hard as a single mom and at the same time try to get a college degree and a job and find a career which fulfils her, the contrast between her relationships with her children’s father (which is mostly cordial) and with her current boyfriend / husband (which always spirals down after the initial excitement). Olivia’s life is a hard one but it is also rewarding and fulfilling and filled with love and kindness sometimes from unlikely places. Mason’s father, Mason Sr., is an interesting character. He has a good relationship with Mason’s mother and he is more a friend than a parent to Mason and his sister. He doesn’t play any part in the hardwork of day-to-day parenting, but when he makes an appearance in the children’s lives, he makes them happy and gives them good advice. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones in which Mason and his sister have long conversations with their dad, including one in which he gives ‘the talk’ and tells them about contraceptives. I also loved the scenes which depict Mason’s relationship with his girlfriend Sheena and how their relationship ebbs and flows across time. 

I loved most of the characters in the movie. Even the abusive ones were perfectly portrayed. The main characters who get the maximum screen-time – Mason, his sister and his mother – were, of course, all wonderful, but the other main characters who are sometimes the minor ones were also fascinating. My favourites were Mason’s dad and his girlfriend Sheena – the scenes in which they come were all wonderful. In the last scene of the movie, Mason joins college and goes on a trek with three of his new collegemates. Mason has a long conversation with one of them after they reach the mountains and that is one of the fascinating scenes in the movie. The movie on the whole is vintage Linklater, with each scene sculpted delicately, the story waltzing slowly and a lot of conversation happening on screen – conversation which we love listening to.

Ellar Coltrane (Mason), Lorelei Linklater (Mason’s sister Samantha – how can one not like the name Lorelei :)) and Patricia Arquette (Mason’s mom Olivia) are all wonderful in their respective roles and Ethan Hawke teams up with his old friend Linklater and is brilliant in his role as Mason’s father.

This is all about the story and about the performances of the leading players. The movie was wonderful, on these aspects alone. What amazes us even more is that the movie was made over a twelve-year period with the same set of actors and actresses. So we can see Mason getting older across the years (and Ellar Coltrane plays that role throughout) and so do Samantha and Olivia. I have seen this happen in TV series where the same set of actors and actresses work together for many years – for example the way Amber (Mae Whitman’s character) grows up from a wild brat to a responsible young woman in ‘Parenthood’ and how Jake (Angus T. Jones) grows up from a cute, smart talking boy to a handsome young man in ‘Two and a Half Men’ and of course how all the main characters grow up and evolve in ‘One Tree Hill’), but this is the first time I have seen this in a movie. Because it is next to impossible to make a movie across twelve years – so many things change across time – for example the actors / actresses may not be available, the story and the screenplay might get dated – but this didn’t faze Richard Linklater in taking this huge risk and making this movie across more than a decade. His effort shows in the final result, in the exquisite beauty and brilliance of the movie, as the story and the characters feel wonderfully realistic, like people from our own family whom we watch from up close as they evolve as people.

So, what is my final verdict on ‘Boyhood’? It is a beautiful, remarkable work of cinematic art. Richard Linklater takes big risks with the way he tells the story and the main actors and actresses play their roles perfectly with realistic understated brilliance. ‘Boyhood’ has been nominated for both the ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’ Oscars and I hope it wins both of them. I haven’t seen most of the other movies which are competing in these categories, but I think Linklater’s movie is gong to be hard to beat. Highly recommended.

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