Language: English, Spanish
Director/Writer: Richard Linklater
Shane F. Kelly
Steven Chester Prince
This much hyped 12-YEARS-A-FILM distills a boy and his family’s 12 years lifetime into a 2h45m feature film is Linklater’s genuine brainchild which slickly blurs the line between documentary and theatrics, finally arrives after the sublime closure of his BEFORE trilogy (BEFORE MIDNIGHT 2013), and it is a sure-fire pinnacle in his resilient career with a marked traction into the Oscar race as one of the front-runners.
In the past 12 years, each year, Linklater assembles the same cast, the center four are Mason (Coltrane), his divorced parents (Arquette and Hawke) and his elder sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), to shoot a string of shorts about their life, mainly Mason’s as the title denotes, which Linklater has scripted before, and when Mason reaches 18, the film ends with his first day in college, signals a finish-line for his boyhood and augurs a nebulous future into adulthood.
The most distinctive feature of Linklater’s unconventional project is the sense of “time”, which lapses without resorting to the usual tactics of captions, we sense time through the physiognomies of people, the trend-setting technology (cellphones, iPod, video games and laptops) and the pop hits of each year (the film literally opens with Coldplay’s breakthrough hit YELLOW in the millennium) within these 12 years, it is another kind of vicarious catharsis for audience to experience, sometimes one may want the time stills since we are longing for more of the story at that period, but the dispassionate editing tenaciously cuts in and it is another year with another episode.
Also, as Linklater’s trademark, BOYHOOD is not surprisingly consisted of a profusion of dialogues, which is the main factor makes me dig into BEFORE trilogy, written with enlightening witticism but disguised as a perfectly spontaneous sincerity. But in here, Ellar Coltrane’s Mason basically is an introvert child (perhaps a setting to in line with Coltrane’s own character), who mostly is a passive observer than a keen communicator, even during the most intimate occasions (e.g. with his girlfriend), the conversations are mostly packed with normalcy and banality, there is a frustrating wanting of frisson here (compared with BEFORE trilogy) which deters a more devoted investment into Mason’s world, nevertheless, we can feasibly find connections in his story (more or less), for parents, it will be more reflex to stir the right chord with the scenario. Also the episodic randomness is a double-edged sword, axiomatically it is a requisite process for such a lengthy project, but the almost equally divided year-to-year chapters in a way erase the possibility of audience-pandering crescendo one might expect, for instance, the drunken first step-father played by Marco Perella, his explosion and unreasonable rage is too cringe-worthy to watch. Still, I am not bad-mouthing this film’s achievement, just nitpicking from my personal angle, I cannot conform to its landslide adulation, someone is destined to be not in the same wavelength with it anyway.
Having said so, Hawke and Arquette register incredible aura here, Hawke is as loquacious as ever in Linklater’s films, his father figure is mostly heartwarming, the children learn the most important lessons from him, although they mainly stay with their mother. The much-absented-from-big-screen Patrizia Arquette is more likely to win some recognition finally, her entire transformation is as memorable as Coltrane’s, her own story in these years sound more interesting to me than his children’s.
Sight & Sound Magazine just announced BOYHOOD is their No.1 film of 2014, so now is “the” time for Linklater, and with its epic scale in time, the film is unique, groundbreaking, winsome and crowd-pleasing, what’s more one can expect?