Director Richard Linklater shot Boyhood over 12 consecutive years and used a similar fragmented technique in his Before trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which spanned 18 years.
But this new film, at almost three hours long, gives total emersion into the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), along with the lives of his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and estranged father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). We literally see Manson transform in real time during the course of the film from a 6-year-old, chubby-faced boy starting school through to an 18-year-old, lanky, monosyllabic college freshman and everything in between.
Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Ellar Coltrane
For any parent, it has many poignant moments of recollection from pain to tenderness. It is shot with terrific sensitivity void of any sentimentality and without the normal clunky “four years later” sign posting. Here, you are left to let the film reveal itself, and it works perfectly. It is a beautiful example of assured filmmaking from a director who gets very close to reality in a fictional form.
Many have linked Boyhood to the great British social documentary series Seven Up! (directed by Michael Apted) and François Truffaut’s 400 Blows. But no one has mentioned The Wonder Years: the 1980s American television series beautifully penned by Neal Marlens and Carol Black. It features main protagonist Kevin Arnold immersed in the social and family life of a typical 1960's American suburb. Made in 1988 to 1993, spanning Arnold's age from 12 to 17. This was a far more commercial, family orientated proposition, but we witness a similar onscreen coming of age. The last episode was aired in 1993 with the final narration…
“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back... with wonder.”
I think this quote fits perfectly with Linklater’s beautiful film on the complexities of family life and growing up.