Friday, August 15, 2014

Boyhood Review

Imagine for a second if you could go back and make a movie out of your life. Take all the experiences you've had and cram it into three hours. How would that feel? What would it be like? What would you include? Now imagine for a second that you have a friend who has done just that. Starting at the age of six, he filmed a little bit every year and now you are in college sitting down and watching the movie of his life. Wouldn't that be a really interesting experience? Well, I feel like this is what I have just experienced via Richard Linklater. The visionary director started a project 12 years ago where he cast a six-year-old boy and with him as the central character began to make a movie about the life of a fictional boy growing up. It only took about 45 days to shoot, but that 45 days was spread out over the course of 12 years and thus we get at least a scene or two of every year of the boy's life up to the point where he is 18 and is graduated from high school. When I first heard this premise, I immediately wanted to see this as it sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To my great frustration, it took the movie a long time to finally make it to my city, but now that it finally made it, seeing it became a huge priority. And by goodness this movie does not disappoint. In fact, it's easily the best movie I've seen so far this year.

If you think of the logistics of this of making this movie, the risks involved are super high. You cast a six-year-old boy. You have no idea what he's going to be like and look like in 12 years. And for what it's worth, you have no idea about any of the cast. What if something happened to one of them? What if one them decided to quit? They would definitely need to have an end goal in mind, an initial idea of what the film would look like. But at the same time, they would have to prepare for anything. Be ready to improvise on the fly. Have plenty of backup plans. All this would not only require a superb team of writers, but it would also require an excellent crew all around. All the stars would seemingly need to align for the whole 12 years. And this is exactly what has happened. The story of how this movie was made is amazing in and of itself. Even if the movie hadn't have been good, the dedication and perseverance of everyone involved would've still been applause worthy.

But even when you ignore the back story behind this movie, the end result is an incredible movie. You can go in not having known anything about the production of the movie and still be impressed with the story you see. But combining the two together is what makes this truly an epic movie. They call the movie Boyhood. But yet it could've as easily been called Sisterhood, Motherhood or Fatherhood because this movie is about this whole family growing up and it is so awesome watching all of them grow up. And it's even more fascinating that you are not only watching the characters grow up, but you are watching the actors themselves grow up. The premise of this movie has been done before. It reminds me of Forrest Gump. But the fact that all the characters are the same actors throughout makes this special. At the end of the movie, you are watching the characters themselves go through their final moments of screen time and suddenly you reflect onto how they were at the beginning of the movie and it hits you. The beginning of this movie was 12 years ago for them. But it was only three hours for you. You just watched them grow up. Like literally. It was mind-blowing for me.

Now onto the movie itself. You ask for the story line? Well that's hard to pin down. It's about life. You could argue that there really isn't one solid over-arching plot. Instead, you have tons of smaller story lines all woven together into one giant movie because that's what life is. It's thousands of different experiences all tied together. And like I mentioned, despite the title of the movie, this doesn't just focus on the boy. It focuses on all of the characters in the boy's life. We start at the top with the mother and the father. Yes, they had two kids together but they slowly grow apart. The mom seems like a normal lady trying her best to raise her children, but the father is wild and reckless with his life and they divorce. It's fascinating seeing the direction that life takes each of them throughout the movie. And of course we have the two kids and it's equally as fascinating watching them grow up and deal with all the normal challenges that a teenage boy and girl would face. And then you have the multitude of side characters that are introduced throughout. Some stay for a while and other disappear quickly, but each character seems to have a realistic human depth to all of them.

In this movie, it's not just the characters that grow up. The world itself grows up. It's a lot of fun watching all the technological advances over the course of the 12 years. In the beginning you see him watching Dragon Ball Z and playing his Gameboy Advance. His sister is dancing to Britney Spears and the way they communicate to their friends is calling on the home phones and using email. Yellow by Coldplay is the opening song and early on his mom is reading the second Harry Potter book to him. Throughout the movie they constantly add in all these pop culture references as well as new technological advances. You see their phones transform from the huge brick home phones to flip phones to smart phones. You see them playing X-Box and the Wii. Communication with friends goes from email to facebook. They stand in line for the sixth Harry Potter book. One year he mentions The Dark Knight among his favorite movies of the summer. Towards the end, Somebody that I Used to Know by Gotye is playing in the background. We literally watch the world transform from the beginning of the movie to the end and it is both amazing and extremely nostalgic.

Of course what holds this together is the superb acting jobs all around. It all felt like it was happening very naturally and effortlessly. The characters felt human and real, almost like they were improvising everything or being filmed in their actual lives. Oftentimes with child actors you can tell they aren't very good at acting, but you forgive them because are so young. This was not the case. At six years old, Ellar Coltrane was acting just like a normal six year old. It wasn't forced. I didn't necessarily see the progression of his acting, rather I saw the progression of what felt like a normal human being. And this was the case for everyone. As mentioned, Ellar Coltrane played played our main star. Director's daughter Lorelei Linklater played his sister. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke played the mom and dad. I give applause all around and I hope there is much recognition for everyone during awards season. I especially give an applause to whoever made the decision to cast six-year-old Ellar Coltrane because 18-year-old Ellar actually could pass as Ethan Hawke's son and there's no way they could've known that at the beginning.

There's a lot more I could say about this movie, but I think I have sufficiently stated my mind, so I will leave the rest up to you to go experience and enjoy. Moral of the story is that I thoroughly enjoyed this cinematic experience of watching this family grow up right before my eyes. It was a great movie about life and left me pondering on all the themes in brought up and also made me reflect on my own life -- past, present and future. Please don't be scared off by the run-time of nearly three hours. It doesn't feel long at all. And even so, I was completely absorbed by every minute of this. By the end of the movie, I was ready to keep going for another 10 hours and watch the college and adult years of this boy's life. I was fully invested in him and his life after watching him grow-up from age six to age 18 in the course of just three hours. So yes, this movie is a once in a lifetime movie. I don't believe we will ever get another project quite like this and thus I can't praise this enough. Boyhood definitely gets a 10/10 from me. Easily the best movie of the year so far.

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