I'm not always a big fan of Richard Linklater's films and found his Before Sunrise/ Sunset/Midnight series a bit talky and not overly deserving of the acclaim it received.
However, that said, and with little hint of what was to come, I was captivated by his latest film, Boyhood, which he wrote and directed and included in the cast his Before series star Ethan Hawke, who co-wrote the last two of those films.
I think I'd read something about this movie and it became clear as I was watching that the progression of actors playing Hawke's screen son Mason, Jr. was in fact the same kid over a series of years. I'd remembered David Carradine doing this sort of thing with his daughter scheduled to play Mata Hari over a 24-year shoot, but that effort was never completed.
Indeed, it's hard to fathom keeping a project going over a twelve year period and retaining the interest of all the actors involved, not to mention the kids, one of whom was the writer/director's daughter Lorelei, who effectively plays Mason's big sister Samantha.
The plot deals with the difficulties Mom Patricia Arquette faces raising two children as a single parent, because her ex-husband, the kids' dad, a free spirited soul, has been away for a year and a half in Alaska doing this job or that. Ethan Hawke is earnest, sincere and incredibly winning in his portrayal of a loving but flawed father. It's among the best of his acting achievements thus far.
Eventually he comes home just as Arquette moves the family to Houston so that she can go back to college and get a better job. She winds up marrying one of her professors and continues an up and down roller coaster life that severely affects her children, but she somehow soldiers on. Arquette is terrific and convincing in her role.
The kids are also standouts and natural and literally grow up right in front of us, though we focus a lot more on the son, hence the title Boyhood. And playing that boy is an outstanding Ellar Coltrane as Mason, who deals with the vagaries of his own life, his father's and his mother's unsuccessful succession of marriages.
My only complaint is that the film might be a tad too long at over two and a half hours, though the talky dialogue, which I wasn't always thrilled with in the Before series of films, never gets overly bogged down here. Could some of it be cut without hurting the film? Absolutely, but it never strayed from holding my interest.
I've gone to zillions of films at the Writers Guild West Theatre in Beverly Hills and, though there's often in my view undeserved applause at the fade out, I can't remember such a thunderous sustained ovation displayed by my fellow writers and their guests at the conclusion of this film, some shouting "Bravo!"
Is Boyhood the best film ever made? Doesn't matter. Will it make a lot of money? Probably not tons, and that's a shame, because the subject matter speaks to anyone who can remember growing up and/or has aspirations to do so. It is humorous and moving and deserving of Oscar consideration next winter. And there's no doubt that young Ellar Coltrane will get his share of plaudits and deserved career momentum for his guileless, imperfect and sometimes intensely intriguing outlook towards life.
I recommend that you go see it.
Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com