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Awards season reviews: Boyhood

Ever seen a film 12 YEARS in the making? Me neither, but here it is, this is my review of Boyhood.

I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t looking forward to watching this one. I felt its three hour running time would be an endurance test, but the fact that it took 12 years to make did intrigue me so I gave it a go and I liked it. Mostly.

Boyhood follows the life of Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) as he finds his way through childhood to adolescence. The film starts with Mason at age six living with his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette). Olivia struggles with balancing relationships, college, work and raising two children almost single handedly as the father, Mason Sr., (Ethan Hawke) only visits on the odd occasion. Mason, whilst living a life much like any other, asks the questions we all consider; Why are we here? What is our purpose? What should I do with my life? And whilst he’s asking these questions life, 12 years of it, goes by.

This is such an unusual film to watch. You get to see these actors grow up, right in front of your eyes. Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater literally transform from children to young adults within the three hours you spend with them, and it creates a really nice flow, a journey you get carried away with. That is until, unfortunately, these two child actors grow into awkward teenagers and their acting ability depletes. Relying on a child actor to have the same talent for 12 years is a risk and it didn’t pay off in this case, especially with regards to Lorelei. She’s so charismatic, natural and real as a child yet her acting becomes wooden, forced and unrealistic the older she gets and it effects the flow of the film. It feels jolted. That is until Patricia Arquette has a scene and she brings it right back. You can really tell the experienced actors from the inexperienced ones and it pains me a little to say that. I think that’s why Patricia’s character, Olivia, is given the biggest storylines.

She goes through a certain amount of drama with her always dysfunctional relationships, involving a moment of domestic abuse and trauma, but she does the right thing and takes her children out of this situation and starts over, yet again. And you admire her. She really is the driving force in this story. But watching the relationships between this family develop and change is what keeps you involved in these people. Ethan Hawke’s performance as the absent yet loving father provides most of the heartwarming moments. He wants to connect with his children and really tries whenever he sees them. You do see a relationship grow between father and son, which I think is down to Ethan Hawke’s performance, along with the writing. I’ve talked about the films flow and underneath the 12 years of production and the good and bad acting, is some superb writing. Not one moment in any conversation does anything feel unnatural. Nothing is out the ordinary. After being so adapted to drama by Hollywood, you watch this film and constantly wait for something to happen. A death, a car crash, a fire, an explosion and none of this happens. It’s just life, it’s just a comment on life and that’s what I liked so much about this film. I could quite happily sit back and watch another three hours of this family.

From 12 years of production, 45 days of filming and three hours of film Boyhood has received many award nominations. Best picture, best director, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best original screenplay and best editing. It’s already won best film from many other ceremonies, so it’s likely to win best film from the Oscars also, but I think for a collaborative effort it’s lacking in some aspects, namely the wooden development of the two main child actors. It’s lucky to have Arquette to bring it back each time. So I would say a definite for best supporting actress (it’s debatable that she should in fact be up for best lead) and best original screen play for writer and director Richard Linklater. To keep up and organise such a long and intricate project deserves some reward. We see so many films drop off the end of a conveyer belt, made just to make money, but Boyhood demonstrates the dedication, time and sheer love it should take to make a real film about real life.

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