Life Itself Unfolds in “Boyhood”
By Skip Sheffield
No one can accuse Richard Linklater of lack of persistence. The writer-director of “Dazed and Confused” and “Before Sunrise,” etc., spent 12 years creating a real-time account of “Boyhood,” linked to a fictional story of a broken family in hardscrabble East Texas.
The boy in “Boyhood” is Ellar Coltrane, who is called Mason in the story. Filming began when Ellar was 6-years-old and we watch him grow up before our very eyes within the 164 minutes of this extraordinary film.
Mom is played by rarely-seen Patricia Arquette in her best performance ever. Dad is Ethan Hawke, star of Linklater’s “Sunrise, Sunset” films. Mason’s older sister Samantha, usually called Sam, is played by Lorelei Linklater, daughter of the writer-director.
I suspect Linklater collaborated closely with Ethan Hawke on the story, which resembles Hawke’s own life story in part. Like Mason, Hawke’s parents split when he was 5, and he was raised by his mother in a number of locations.
Patricia Arquette has not been seen in many films recently, but she makes up for lost time as the embattled mother of Mason. Like her character, Arquette has made some poor choices in life and love, most notably with a brief marriage to volatile actor Nicolas Cage. Unlike her sister Rosanna, who was so beautiful she inspired a hit song, Patricia has been fiercely independent and proudly imperfect, even refusing an offer of braces from her parents for her crooked teeth.
Ethan Hawke’s father is an itinerant and not-too-successful musician and full time slacker-dreamer whose arrested development is symbolized by the vintage Pontiac GTO he drives.
Arquette’s mom is a striver who returns to college to earn a teaching degree, yet chooses subsequent husbands who are violent or drunks or both.
Ellar Coltrane develops into a thoughtful, stoic young man who seems to be stronger for all his life challenges.
“Boyhood” is a movie in which nothing much “happens’ but the process of growing up. When you think of it, that is a pretty huge achievement.