“Some Grow up and Some age” A look at 2014’s Boyhood
There have been many directors over the years who have done some crazy things to ensure their films make it to theaters, like when Herzog moved a massive steam ship across a mountain to get Fitzcarraldo made. Francis Ford Coppola pushed Martin Sheen so hard on the set of Apocalypse Now that he had a massive heart attack. Tim Burton trained an army of squirrels for Willy Wonka. And Kubrick tortured Shelley Duvall so badly on the set of The Shining that she became ill and started losing her hair. All that being said, those feats and experiences pale in comparison to the production of 2014’s award winning drama, Boyhood.
Let’s get the stats out of the way quickly. The film is rated R and is a long one too clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes. Written and directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly), it starred Ellar Coltrane (Faith and Bullets), Patricia Arquette (True Romance, Little Nicky), Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Daybreakers), Libby Villari (Boys Don’t Cry) and Lorelei Linklater (Occupy Texas). The film was produced on a budget of $4,000,000, raked in more than $44,000,000 at the box office, and took more than 12 freaking years to complete. After premiering in 2014, Boyhood would go on to win over 170 awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Performance by An Actress in in a Supporting Role at the Golden Globes.
12 years, that’s a crazy long time in reality as well as in “film years”. Just let that sink in and think about the nightmarish logistical struggles that must accompany an undertaking of such magnitude. In the end, Linklater, his cast, and crew of professionals pulled it off.
Boyhood follows the life of its protagonist Mason, as his journey is documented from the time he’s a child until he arrives at college as an adult. The film is filled with lessons, hardships, and fulfilling experiences. Essentially, we follow Mason as he’s molded into a man. Boyhood truly captures and encapsulates the path many young men have taken and a part of the reason it resonates so well with viewers is because you are actually watching people age over the course of the filming. As Linklater states in a featurette for the film, “It could’ve been called Motherhood, Fatherhood, or Bumbling Through Adulthood. It was an opportunity to see the parents evolve as well as the kids.” It wasn’t just the star Mason that was growing, it was about the maturation process of all its characters.
Linklater chose to shoot on 35mm film rather than digital so that there would be a seamless transition from one year into the next and it wouldn’t look like a hodgepodge of footage with varying levels of quality just slapped together.
There is enough stress that goes along with the scheduling and coordination when making a one-off film, but to sign actors onto a project that will take more than a decade to film takes balls. Pure and simple. Why? Because, life. Feelings change and people die. For one thing, Linklater was banking on the idea that the star of the film would still feel the same about the project as he aged and matured. But Linklater found that in the later years Ellar Coltrane grew to become a collaborator, more than just an actor.
And having larger names attached sounds great in principle, but it is dicey on both sides of the coin: for the actor, it’s the fact that they are bound to the project and it dictates availability for other work and on the flip side, Linklater had to shoot when stars like Hawke and Arquette were available. One benefit to the movie being made over the time it was is that the amount they filmed each year was substantially less than what one would shoot for a standard feature, so it was most likely much easier to make all the moving pieces behind the scenes work.
Richard Linklater set out to do the impossible and he completed it with a level of quality and skill rarely seen anywhere in the arts, let alone film. There are films made every so often that stand to define the era while also simultaneously becoming timeless. Boyhood is a masterpiece of filmmaking, both in production and the end result. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll connect, and you’ll find yourself growing with the characters.
Boyhood very well may be the consummate coming of age film, joining the ranks of Stand By Me, The Breakfast Club, and The Outsiders. It has the potential to have a profound impact on both children and adults alike. I’ve added it to my list of “essential films” that I intend on showing to my children.
If you’ve yet to see the film, you’re doing yourself a severe disservice and I suggest you watch it, when you do give it your undivided attention, do it with no cellphones, no Sudoku, just watch it. It’s not flashy and is most definitely what filmgoers would refer to as a “slow burn” and it should be approached with a level of respect and open mindedness. If you do that, you won’t be disappointed.