Boyhood

Boyhood is the new movie by writer/director Richard Linklater (of Dazed and Confused fame). The backstory is that he (Linklater) cast a 6 year old boy and his family (plus others) back in 2002 and filmed scenes and then reunited his actors every year for 12 years so you see them age naturally… you see the 6 year old become 7, 8, 9, etc. and the various life changes that brings. Even some of the incidental actors are brought back every few years until the boy graduates from high school.

This movie is 2hrs and 40min long (the full Transformers!) and nothing of any particular note happens. It’s just slices of life… sweet, tender, and believably dramatic (Non-Hollywood) family drama. Yet, somehow, I was never once bored through the various conversations and moments. I’m not sure how they did it… I’ve seen talky movies that are all about the philosophy or scientific concepts (some of them from Linklater) where the enjoyment comes from the movie’s ability to stretch the mind. This movie doesn’t really do that… or it does it but without those movie’s direct intent of being heady movies.

The movie does some clever things like never having title cards telling us the year… one scene the kid is 6, then next he’s 7 and you see him just slightly older (taller, voice getting deep, growing facial hair, etc.). It also uses cultural touch-points like the Iraq war, Obama, Nintendo Wii, Xbox, flip phones, ipods, iphones, etc.) in mostly subtle ways (though you can’t do “we dressed everyone up like Harry Potter characters and sent them to a midnight launch party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” subtly. All of this worked and was particularly neat because they had to film these scenes with the hope that they WOULD be cultural checkpoints given that their cast was aging in real-time and they couldn’t go back and refilm stuff.

Speaking of Harry Potter, some people will point out those movies did the same thing as this movie… took a cast and showed them age over the course of ten years. While that’s true, those movies were released every year to two years and made them a ton of cash (and were about big bombastic things). This movie had sit in the editing bay year after year, not earning anyone cash, and just existing on the thought that, one day, it will be released. They had to roll the dice on the young actors being good enough to pull things off at 6 as well as at 18.

Speaking of which, the boy’s sister was played by the writer/director’s own daughter from 8 to 20 (or 10 to 22… whatever her age). Guess it was easier to get her back on set!

So… if you get a chance, you might enjoy this film, keeping mind that not a lot of stuff happens. But if you want a sweet, thoughtful, believable film about life… just life… then you might like it. If you are curious about it from a technical standpoint or as an achievement in film, then it’s certainly worth it too.

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