Every once in a while, you can witness something that hits you at your very core. I've felt this very few times in my film loving career. I gazed in awe at the sight of dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, marveled witnessing the birth of the universe in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, and now, I sit in sheer admiration and respect at the magic that is Richard Linklater's Boyhood. Nothing you have read, heard, or seen about the film will prepare you for the experience that is this cinematic rarity. Filmed over twelve years, Boyhood tells the story of Mason, who we follow from ages 5 to 18.
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Lorelei Linklater, Boyhood assembles the finest cast of 2014 so far. Each player, dedicating themselves to the greater cause, allows themselves to evolve. Fully realized, and oozed with every rich element of movie making, Linklater writes the most authentic characters to grace the screens in years. Ready for more hyperbolic thoughts? Doesn't make it less true but get ready. Boyhood, potentially, could be one of the best films ever made. Last year, I referred to his third installment of the Before series, "a masterpiece." I stand by that even today. Boyhood however, is something that is a once in a lifetime endeavor that will be studied, criticized, admired, and bring all the discussions about film to the forefront. I feel blessed just to have watched it.
Ellar Coltrane is simply stupendous. As you watch his transformation before your eyes, his subtle and restrained performance will floor you, scene after scene, year after year. It's astounding how Coltrane interprets young Mason as a boy, bringing him through adolescence with grace, and then fully realizes what kind of man he has become. There's an intimacy in which Coltrane decides to finesse Mason upon the audience. He thoroughly cares about him, understanding his confusions, and even more, realizing his flaws. It's one of the year's most outstanding performances and one of the best delivered by any child actor.
Ethan Hawke continues to be one of the more undervalued and underutilized actors working today. Though he has three Oscar nominations to his name, two for co-writing Before Sunset and Before Midnight, and one for Best Supporting Actor in Antoine Fuqua's Training Day, I'm still unsure about how Hollywood and the world perceives his abilities. As Mason's Dad, Hawke takes his character to the brink of sheer brilliance. Showcasing an unrestrained and eager willingness to connect with his children, Dad, as he's only called in the film, is a sensational and intriguing look into fatherhood and being human. Chasing the dreams, and believing you are destined for something greater, Dad allows the audience to relish in his quest to be connected and complacent. Hawke shines once again, involving both mind and spirit, into a man we may know all too well.
As Mom, Patricia Arquette ignites the spirit in a performance that should land her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Headlining a career that has produced impressive work on TV's "Medium," as well as in films like True Romance, Arquette's prowess is her ability to be a fallen character without requiring pity or persuasion from the viewer. She interprets a woman, desperate for a connection to other aspects of her life, and reinvents the foundation of the broken mother. Arquette's beautiful yet exhilarating turn often feels like riding on the edge of a cliff, unsure if we're going in, but even more excited just to be on the ride with her. Pure and raw talent exists in her, and it's been worth the wait to finally witness it all unravel.
Richard Linklater casts his daughter Lorelei Linklater to play Samantha, Mason's older sister. Without even realizing or thinking about it, you secretly and solemnly fall in love with her transformation from girl to woman. She is every bit as brilliant as any person in the cast, delivering on all beats, allowing her awkward yet sweet demeanor to pierce through yet not forgetting her annoyance and overbearing nature in which she came. Honestly, it's a performance destined to be forgotten during the awards year but it's something I will recall for years to come.
There are other supporting players that we meet throughout the journey particularly Marco Perella and Zoe Graham, who completely make their mark during the picture.
Running at 165 minutes, this dramatic, coming-of-age epic had me just yearning for more. I wanted to stay with them, see their journeys continue, and just relish in this dream a bit longer. I walked out secretly (or not so secretly) wishing that Linklater is quietly filming these same characters for the next twelve years, and will not reveal the plans until it's all finished. Talk about the surprise of my life. At 42 years old when and if that happens, I will be excited for the ride.
Shot gorgeously by Lee Daniel and Shane F. Kelly, and edited with clarity and love by Sandra Adair, Boyhood succeeds as a technical marvel just as much as a narrative and performance piece. Linklater's writing, on virtually every level, is the best thing since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Originality, and taking a fresh perspective on a genre that could feel stale for some, Linklater will make you a believer again. His direction is even more impressive. It's the single best thing that he's ever done and probably ever will do. It's the pinnacle of his career, and is his offering to cinema for all-time.
In essence, Linklater's Boyhood is a must-see film for any lover of the movies. It's the type of film that was imagined when they invented film. With tears in my eyes, I marveled and wept for a creation I still may not fully understand but am anxiously waiting to revisit very soon.
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