As of recently I have been noticing a change in my movie watching. It's becoming harder and harder to impress me or have me engaged with something enough. I have a hard time turning off my critical brain, often correctly predicting plot points and character moments well in advance. I've watched too many movies, seen behind the curtains and know too much for it to be wholly magical anymore. I don't think I'm alone on this feeling either. To me, this summer's lineup of effects-heavy event pictures seem to talk down and cater to the lowest common denominator of moviegoers. Grown-Inducing, overlong, ear-ringing schlock that fails to leave as big of an impression in the viewer's mind as the studios wish them to be. The budgets are inflated to such and extent in order to create these big "eye-popping cinematic moments" in order to simply get asses in seat that the filmmakers forget the two most important elements in movies: story and character.
Anyone well-informed in the realm of film criticism will no doubt remember Siskel & Ebert, the first of its kind movie review show hosted by the late pair Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Upon seeing this movie I was reminded of a quote said by Gene Siskel on the show while reviewing the Tony Danza dud "She's Out of Control" where he stated that seeing the film was "so depressing I actually considered quitting my job as a film critic. Fortunately, I would see the film 'Say Anything' in the same day and all is right with the world". I had a similar experience when I saw the movie "Transformers: Age of Extinction". I sat there in the theatre, on my birthday no less, with the depressing knowledge that this is what the public wants. This is apparently filmmaking: a gargantuan mess of a movie with a storyline thinner than a hair's split end and a runtime that rivals "The Dark Knight Rises", but uses none of that time as effectively as that film did. Audiences are extremely hesitant of anything "new" or "original" it seems. "Edge of Tomorrow" had a very well constructed screenplay, good performances, and a great amount of action sequences that actually were both entertaining and moved the plot forward, and yet that movie fell by the wayside to make way for louder, dumber, CGI-infested movies with a recognizable something or other to boost ticket sales. Watching Michael Bay's latest outing in the franchise drove that point home for me and it was indeed depressing.
Richard Linklater's "Boyhood", on the other hand, quietly crept into cinemas and reinvigorated my sense of romanticism of movies in a way thought long dead. While I understand it is unfair and ridiculous to compare these very different films to one another, it sticks out in my mind how if even a quarter of the ticket sales for "Transformers" went to movies original like this one then cinema as an art form would not be in as much intellectual jeopardy as it is today. Nonetheless, this cynical movie lover was won over and let loose onboard an emotional ride untouched by any other movie I've seen this year.
"Boyhood" is an audacious experiment of a film that chronicles the everyday life experiences of a young boy named Mason, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane, as he lives out his childhood hitting on universal moments that each person can relate to no matter what the age is. Mason is the kind of young boy you get to know over the course of the film who bears strong similarities to a friend you might have had in school, or perhaps even one's own self at certain points. I saw both in my experience. He lives a very ordinary life with his mother, played wonderfully by Patricia Arquette who merits an Oscar nomination. She shines brighter on screen than she ever has before, including "True Romance". Along for the ride as well is the divorced dad played very well by Linklater regular Ethan Hawke, whose character's goofy charm is always endearing and fun to watch as he brings a lot of humour to many of his scenes. Every performance is stellar because the story is so intimately told which brings out the level of authenticity and realism that most films lack. So real it has a sort of documentary feeling to it.
This is a truly groundbreaking movie literally spanning 12 years of of a story that flows at its own pace, free from contrivances in the plot or cliche characters. It feels closer to real life than most movies on the subject of growing up. Nowadays, I feel like audience attention span is so limited that filmmakers feel that have to play to that ineptitude by removing any time to take it all in and experience the atmosphere, world, and circumstances our characters inhabit. In this movie, not a whole lot really "happens", if that makes sense. There's no villain's evil scheme, there's no ticking-clock scenario, no pointless shenanigans, no three-act structure, and especially no dumbing down of the material. This isn't that kind of movie. It's truly about those little moments no one talks about to much between the big moments that build up the human experience and how they all amount to what life is like in a way. By shooting little chunks of movie with the same cast and crew over a 12-year period Richard Linklater and company were able to take the quiet normality and blandness of everyday life and turn out an extraordinary cinematic achievement.
The movie also caters to people of my own generation as it uses specific things like songs, videos, events, items, etc that trigger a very real emotional response because the feelings this movie is about is universal. But, because of when it took place it hit me in places I didn't expect it to. I had countless flashbacks to my own youth that were shockingly very similar at times to the movie. Along with that, it is also edited very effectively and creatively. The timeline covers 12 years of this family's life and at no point were there any uses of title cards, no shots of a calendar, no nothing. The progression of time is expressed visually through very noticeable elements that appear in every scene. For example hair cuts or style changes, weight gain and loss, a song from that particular year, a conversation about a then current event, video games, movies, and even a scene at a Harry Potter book release are all successful in pinpointing where and when in the real-world type story we are. This all makes for a much better method of cinematic storytelling and does not talk down to its audience. It embraces the "show don't tell" rule filmmakers forget about quite often.
Although deliberate in its pacing and runtime, I was never bored and I was always emotionally connected to every moment of this family's life. This is the very best movie I've seen this year and may possibly be the best film of Richard Linklater's career. I say that even though I have a very soft spot in my heart for "Dazed and Confused". This one though feels like his most accomplished masterpiece of filmmaking with no rival to speak of in his history. "Boyhood" is a true demonstration of quality, classic filmmaking at its finest, proving that the simple stories are often the most wonderful. Best film of 2014.