Craig's Screening Room: "Boyhood"

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The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.
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Why see a three hour film about a real kid growing up for 12 years in a fake movie? I was already with an explanation for that, which was writer-director Richard Linklater is a master as showing the passage of time. Look no further than his “Before” series, in which the greatest portrait of what relationships are unfolds in three films, each one of which sees the characters just talk at different stages of life, their life changes and newfound perspective being so identifiable as well as enlightening, touching, funny, moving, and all too real, It’s impossible not to feel close with the material.

“Boyhood” on the other hand feels like one of the most impersonal films the filmmaker has ever made. Charting the life of Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane, from age 6 to age 18), the boy goes through the separation of his stressed-out, hard-working mother (Patricia Arquette) and free-spirit father (Ethan Hawke), not one but two alcoholic working-class step-fathers, girls, drugs, bullies, and the passage of time between the Iraq War and Obama election, with a “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” midnight kick-off party thrown in for good measure.

During all this Coltrane grows taller and older and even handsomer but Mason seems primarily unaffected, we never see him be depressed or anxious, girls just seem to flock to him as a High Schooler and we never see him experience any social awkwardness. There’s never really a moment where he makes mistakes or learns from them and the adversity he faces is minimal at best. By the time the second half has rolls around, Mason becomes one of those pretentious kids who bitches just to bitch about the social media age lacking any real emotional connection while spending most of his time by himself anyway in a dark room studying photography. Nothing about this kid is interesting and the way the film treats dads who work jobs they hate to support a family as one-dimensionally miserable alcoholics is the film’s most negligible offense.

The father-son stuff between Coltrane and Hawke is probably the only saving grace here, the intimate bonding about girls, music, and being open with each other works primarily becomes Hawke seems the most in-tuned with this material. Arquette does nice work here too but in a limited role as “stressed out mom”. Coltrane meanwhile grows older but like this movie, his output just feels minimal.