Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Boyhood (2014) Review

This is also taken from my other blog (I will start writing new things soon, promise!)

I've just finished watching Boyhood and... Wow. This film is really something special. I hadn't known what to expect, having only heard good critical reviews of it and, of course, Patricia Arquette's now infamous "feminist" Oscar acceptance speech. I decided not to look it up at all and just view it as a film that taken 12 years - itself an achievement. 

The film opens beautifully to Coldplay's "Yellow". In fact the film has a really amazing soundtrack that I'm going to have to buy. The opening shot is clouds and a seven-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) daydreaming. The first hour of seeing Ellar, the actor himself, grow and change in front of your very eyes is a lovely and captivating experience. To be honest, the film wouldn't be nearly as fascinating without the real-time growth aspect. Seeing all of the actors age and their weight gain, weight loss, different hairstyles, new wrinkles, growth in height, it all adds to the palatable realism of the events taking place. It doesn't take long to be completely consumed by this film, sucked in to every situation and emotion and the tangled web of the characters’ lives. The first half of the film is truly spectacular. Just living Mason’s life with him, his dad trying to reconnect and his mother trying to move on with her life, is really believable and emotional stuff. His sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater – the director’s daughter) transforms from a bitchy, spoilt brat to a caring, laid-back older sister, and the two actors work really well together. In a film like this one, believability is so important and all of the actors are on top form, never overacting and interacting as though they had known each other their whole lives. One character in particular who I won't name just seemed “off” to us but we couldn't put our finger on why and the ever-so-subtle foreshadowing was greatly satisfying when our suspicions were realised.

The second half, however, seems to drag. I won’t spoil the story but the first half has much more tension and fear and plot propulsion so you can’t even bear to take your eyes away for a second in case you miss something important in the little boy’s, and as an important extension of that his mother’s, life. There are no big puzzles to solve or questions that need answering except how it will end for all of the characters. I suppose that’s because it’s based on real life where nothing big usually does ever happen, it’s the small things that make up the turbulence of everyday life. It’s nice to see Mason grow and change and go through all of the firsts that come with being a teenager, though. First kiss, first girlfriend and the awkwardness and bumbling along like you have a clue what you're doing that comes along with it all. It's something everyone watching can relate to and it's nostalgic in a touching, personal way. It’s interesting to see possible girlfriends fade away without much acknowledgement and his girlfriends you assume are going to last forever only last a little while. Nothing can be predicted and the happy endings you expect in some instances happen and in others don’t at all.

I really loved the film, connecting emotionally with the whole extended family and watching their progression like you know them. Afterwards when I researched the film I found that it's about as near to perfection for a film as any could get according to the hard-to-please critics. 100% on Metacritic, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, 82% on IMDb. It’s only one of eleven films ever to have 100% on Metacritic. Even Barack Obama and Christopher Nolan, director of 2014's Interstellar, said it was their favourite film of the year. Pretty amazing figures for such a low budget film. If the whole film had stayed as brilliant as the first hour then I would agree with them but the lagging pace of the end let the film down in my opinion, including the lack of closure for certain characters. I think if the duration had been shaved down from two hours forty minutes then it would have been improved vastly.

However I think this film's lagging conclusion really was its downfall. Had the time been tightened up it would have been a brilliant contender, and that is a real shame. Patricia Arquette was good as the emotional mother making bad choices and trying her best but I didn't think her performance was in any way stand-out. She cried and smiled in the right places but acted no better than anyone else in the film. Perhaps the children should have been given more credit considering they had to grow up on camera without as much training as the others. This film was a spectacular experience but I think it's perhaps getting credit well beyond its due.