In 2002, writer-director Richard Linklater made what I believe to be a decision driven purely by madness. In his mind he must have thought “How can I make filmmaking a real challenge. What constraints can I lower upon myself that would ensure one single slip up would cause me to lose days, months, and possibly years worth of work?”
The answer, apparently, was to spend the next 12 years filming Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and his own daughter Lorelei Linklater living out what I now think is the truest ever paradigm of the “coming of age” movie.
For one or two weeks every year between 2002 and 2013, Linklater, cast, and crew would gather and literally film a day in the life of these characters. The sheer audacity of this can’t be overstated. So much could have gone wrong . I don’t think I have ever seen a braver, ballsier effort from a director. The cast could not be signed to contracts because of a California labor law that prevents contracts of longer than 7 years. The script was not complete when shooting began and Linklater actually would rewrite entire sections of script based on the real lives of the players as well as the footage shot from the previous years filming installment. What if somebody was hurt or injured and couldn’t complete their part? What if somebody was horribly disfigured? What if Ellar Coltrane, 7 years old when filming began, just decided he didn’t want to act anymore?
What if somebody died?
Apparently Linklater told Ethan Hawke to finish the film for him if he died during production. How many movies have to make plans for something like that happening?
Oh and by the way, it’s an incredible film. While so much of the buzz around it is, rightfully, placed on the production, the film itself is nothing short of a masterpiece for Linklater and Co. The “day in the life” storytelling style perfectly fits the narrative. The performances are rock solid across the board. Particularly Hawke and Arquette in somewhat thankless roles as parents who can’t always seem to get their shit together. Y’know, just like real life.
I won’t spoil too much of the story as I think it’s best to go into Boyhood with as little advance knowledge as possible and just let the subtle and well told narrative take you where it may. The film and cast always give us exactly what we need, never too much. When Arquette’s character remarries partway through the film and then divorces later on, it’s never spelled out for us, there’s no offhand remark about that character that isn’t around any more. We as the audience are expected to extrapolate all we need from the information given. It is immensely refreshing not to be handheld through a story.
I completely love the representation of the modern American family. As a single child of an adopted single mother, I’m not always interested in the traditional movie ideal that boy has to meet girl and they must be in love and stay together forever. A lot of times life doesn’t work that way. People grow up, people grow apart. Parents divorce and remarry and then sometimes do it all over again. The really strong families find a way to thrive and succeed despite all that shit and Boyhood succeeds at depicting this in a way I don’t think any other film ever has.
Boyhood was stuck in my brain for days after watching it. Even writing about it now has me wanting to experience it all over again. I think “experience” is a perfect term for Boyhood. Love it or hate it I think it’s important that everybody experience this film. Hopefully you’ll grow a little bit along with it. I know I did.