Filmed over a period of 12 years, Boyhood is the story of a young boy’s family growing up through abusive step parents, money problems and generally the difficulties life presents a family with.
When I sat down to watch this, I already knew that it topped many critic’s top ten lists of the year, and has been tipped to win the Oscar for best picture even before the nominations had been announced. So the big question is “is it as good as everybody says it is?”. Well, Yes. Yes it is.
The key to this film would be ensuring that the children grew up to be good actors, because being promising at an early age is very different to being any good as an adult. Here, Richard Linklater has been extremely fortunate (or skilled) in that his two main children are incredibly convincing in the lead roles. But the real talent here is in the supporting cast. Ethan Hawke is absolutely terrific as the initially wild and reckless dad who is always away finding himself or trying to make it as a musician that eventually settles down and becomes what you’d imagine to be a very good dad. Patricia Arquette is the other especially stand out performer as the constantly struggling single mother of the family. Also a special mention must go to Marco Perella for what is possibly the most brilliantly hateable on screen character from 2014.
It is interesting to note that Boyhood is almost exactly the same length as Transformers 4 (2 hours and 45 minutes), it is even more interesting to consider that while Boyhood spans an entire childhood, only one of these movies feels like you could have had an entire childhood whilst watching (and it’s not Boyhood). The time flies past, the character of Mason seamlessly going from a troubled child who isn’t very interested in what you might call the mainstream subjects at school, into a cynical teenager who feels like his every move is being controlled by somebody.
The real triumph of Boyhood is that you could watch it as many times as you wanted, and every time you would come out thinking it had a different message or overall meaning. It could be interpreted as just the story of a child who doesn’t quite fit in with America’s ideals. Or it could be seen as a single mother’s plight to raise a stable family on her own. Or a satire on the flaws in the American schooling system. Or a child growing up in the shadow of his more conventionally talented sister. The list goes on. It’s one of those movies that has a real re-watchable quality to it, and while it is brilliant first time round, it will just keep on getting better and better the more you watch it.
Overall, I can see what critics are raving about. It is a masterpiece. And it is definitely the film from 2014 that I admire the most, in terms of the effort that must have been required to stick at it, the combined performances from everyone involved and just how damn watchable it is. Having said all that though, it isn’t my favourite film of the year (although let me watch it again a couple of times and I’m sure that’ll change). But you’ll just have to wait and see what film was my favourite of 2014 – I’m going to post a top 10 tomorrow- .