Monday, July 21, 2014

Boyhood (2014) - Review

Ellar Coltrane as Mason Jr.

What can I say about Boyhood (2014) after the whole world has proclaimed it a masterpiece. I was skeptical about it before I saw it. Called it condescendingly a "hipster" movie. Can't even define what that means. But I guess it's a movie for a certain kind of audience. I shouldn't have been dismissive and form opinions without watching the movie. But when something is universally lauded the contrarian in me comes alive.

Now after I've seen it I have to admit that I enjoyed it. Some moments were very moving. Do I like it? Yes. Do I consider it a good movie? Probably. A great one? Absolutely not.

Boyhood is the story of a divorced couple and their two young children (Ellar Coltrane as Mason Jr, and Lorelei Linklater as Samantha) as they grow into young adulthood while living with the mother (Patricia Arquette) and getting frequent visits from the father (Ethan Hawke). The bold audacious stroke is that it was shot over a period of 12 years so we get to the passage of time as these characters, and the actors playing them, grow older.

That's obviously a unique way of telling this story that immediately gives it heart and pathos beyond its simple light beats. It is very moving to watch the passage of time; to see people grow up and come into their own, to see hope and disappointment and the curves life throws. It is doubly moving when presented this way. However beyond this admittedly genius stroke there was not a lot to the story. It is clearly a Linklater movie in that it is generous to most of its characters, well observed with nothing overtly dramatic happening. However we get a tender movie, a 'slice of life" narrative.

And this should be enough for a good movie. But I wasn't convinced. I was moved, I enjoyed it and despite the almost 3 hour length was never bored. But I wanted more. A more profound look at life. A more nuanced attempt at interpreting this story. More visual flair. Something more. I wanted the movie to floor me, amaze me, shake me. But that is not Linklater's style. That is not this movie. And so I resigned myself and decided to enjoy what was on offer.


And there's much to enjoy. Every scene is beautifully observed and flows naturally and seamlessly. Arquette is given a complex character and she dives in whole heartedly and delivers beautiful work in spades. While I think the movie is a bit hard on her character - giving her all the hardship and stupid decisions to deal with while Hawke's character roams freely being "cool" - it also gives her the dramatic arc and her performance is never less than engaging. Coltrane is fine within the parameters of the story but he's not a vivid presence on screen.

I highly recommend Boyhood. It is a unique movie experience and for that it should be applauded. I just wish there was more to it.

Have you seen Boyhood? What did you think? Tell all in the comments.

1 comment:

Candice Frederick said...

I'm glad you got something out of it. I LOVED it, but it is quite a personal story--it was more of a journey than anything else. One that deals with characters and time, rather than a distinct story.