Sunday, January 4, 2015

Video review: "Boyhood"

“Boyhood” is running away with awards for best film of the year from various regional film critic groups -- including my own here in Indiana -- but I’m not quite as high on it as others. It’s a wonderful cinematic effort, a beacon of originality and brash, ambitious filmmaking.

I just don’t think it’s a great film.

As you’ve probably heard by now, writer/director Richard Linklater spent 12 years filming a single child actor, Ellar Coltrane, as he grew from a young boy to manhood. They would shoot a little each year, so we literally get to see his character, Mason, grow and age right before our eyes. Ditto for Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater, who respectively play his mother, father and sister.

The script was also written as they went along, so the result is a very organic narrative that flows like a river, meandering this way and that, occasionally picking up speed and turbulence or slowing down into a contemplative eddy.

There are no big, clashing events like you’d see in a typical drama -- nobody dies in a car crash, or encounters a terrorist, or is diagnosed with a brain tumor. It’s just life, unspooling. Sometimes languorously.

Mostly, the movie is a series of revolving conversations, especially between Mason and his parents, which reflect and affect the path of his growth. His mom and dad divorced long ago, and each present a set of good and bad attributes to emulate or avoid. She tends to make poor choices about the men she falls for, while he still harbors dreams better suited to an adolescent, even as he’s raising one.

It’s a splendidly well-made film, especially the acting -- I expect both Hawke and Arquette to receive Academy Award nominations. Unfortunately, “Boyhood” sometimes feels more like an exercise in creativity than a work of creation.

Video extras are rather modest, and are only to be found on the Blu-ray edition -- DVD has nothing. They are limited to a Q&A with Linklater and his cast, and a making-of documentary, “The 12 Year Project.”



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