Richard Linklater’s films cant be easily pigeon-holed, and that’s because he surrenders to the driving force of an artistic compulsion, or as he put is when I spoke to him on July 17, 2014, a crazy idea. His latest film, BOYHOOD, is an example of an idea so crazy that it’s beyond brilliant. It’s inspired. The same group of actors playing out the childhood of one boy from ages 6 to 18, filmed over the course of twelve years. The result of watching Ellar Coltrane grow up before our eyes is to see the mysteries of the universe unfold in even the most seemingly mundane moments. It also, and this was most unexpected for me, induces us to become emotionally invested in what happens to this kid in a way that is as profound as it is surprising.
Linklater was in the midst of barnstorming the country promoting BOYHOOD when we spoke, but any weariness he might have been experiencing fell away as he described finding a champion for his film at IFC; the struggle between art and commerce that actually favors the small-budget, indie film; the mathematics of filmmaking; and capturing the effect of a dozen years with a group of actors who set aside vanity in favor of authenticity. All while injecting philosophical musing so seamlessly into the process that it becomes an organic part of the story.
BOYHOOD is extraordinary. A film made in 39 days, but over the course of 12 years, that follows Mason, from ages 6 to 18 as he negotiates growing up, a broken home, new schools, first love, and blended families that dont always mix well. Using the same actors over that time span allows for an authenticity of experience in a narrative feature not seen before, the effect of which is to invest even the smallest, most mundane of moments with a profound, revelatory, nature. The film stars Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his parents, and Linklaters own daughter, Lorelei, as Mason’s sister,Samantha. Linklater’s previous work includes the BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET, and BEFORE MIDNIGHT trilogy, DAZED AND CONFUSED, SCHOOL OF ROCK, ME AND ORSON WELLES, A SCANNER DARKLY, BERNIE, which had a real-world impact on its title character, and my favorite of all his films, the sublime, the provocative, the mind-blowing, WAKING LIFE.