August 14 — August 28
Boyhood (Two Week Showing)
|Sat & Sun||2:00||5:15||8:30|
Unless otherwise noted, films begin on Friday and run through the next Thursday.
Director Richard Linklater broke into the American independent film scene with Slacker (1991). A blazingly original movie, it eschewed a traditional plot to cover one day in the lives of several unrelated characters who talk about themselves and share their unusual preoccupations and interests. Quirky, eccentric, occasionally disturbed, the members of this sprawling cast together create a sort of tapestry of disaffected, marginalized America. The movie showcased Linklater’s gentle affection for humanity and his interest in psychological and social truth over artificial narrative. Despite the talky, fragmented style of the film, it slowly develops a cumulative power. “Cumulative” is also an apt descriptor for Linklater’s most celebrated achievement, the “Before Trilogy.” Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013) encompass nothing less than the evolution of a relationship—through initial encounter, flirting, separation, reunion, courtship, marriage, conflict, and reconciliation. Almost 20 years in the making, the Before Trilogy followed the couple played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy through each stage of their lives together and apart. Separately, the three films are incisively written (in collaboration between Linklater and his two leads) and beautifully acted miniatures: as a trilogy, their cumulative effect is emotionally overwhelming. Linklater’s casual pace and willingness to be quiet and listen to his characters can often make viewers feel “nothing is happening”—and then realize that the most important thing in the world has been happening in Linklater’s movie: life. That’s the subject, appropriately, of Linklater’s most recent low-key masterpiece—specifically, the early life of young Mason from first grade to college; but also the life of Ellar Coltrane, the actor who plays Mason—as well as the lives of the supporting actors—because Boyhood was shot over a period of about 12 years, not only to realistically capture the change in Mason as a fictional character, but the changes in the real performers and how they feel about the characters they’re playing. And in an even broader sense than that, Boyhood is about any human life: how we change so gradually that we can’t recognize it within any given moment, but feel the cumulative impact of all those past moments in terms of how we view the world, the future, and ourselves. Most filmmakers tackling a subject this large—on a canvas so ambitious—would create a ponderous epic full of inflated “meaning.” But that’s never been Linklater’s way. Boyhood is a lengthy film but its relaxed, amiable rhythm is never dull. The film’s not as penetrating in its scrutiny as Michael Apted’s made-for-British-television series Up, to which Boyhood will inevitably be compared. Up followed multiple subjects over decades, each installment catching up with the kids from the first film every seven years, charting their social and emotional development from children to teenagers to youths to middle aged adults. Boyhood doesn’t interview its characters—which include Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei as Mason’s more outgoing sister, Samantha; Patricia Arquette as his mother, Olivia, whom Mason adores; and Ethan Hawke as his father, Mason Sr., who separates from Olivia when the film opens but eventually tries to bond with his children—or put them through any contrived storyline. This “family” is quite normal. There is emotional pain (Olivia remarries twice, to men who will gradually reveal their alcoholism), but the situations are believable and handled with delicacy and tact. Linklater is completely unobtrusive—even the time jumps are subtly conveyed through small changes in characters’ appearances or references to current events in their lives. His “fly on the wall” approach never feels voyeuristic, though, because nothing is sensationalized. But Boyhood is anything but dull. It develops great fascination for the viewer, but that fascination comes from seeing life unfold in the faces, attitudes, and behavior of its ever-evolving characters. Particularly Ellar Coltrane, whose open-hearted, questioning gaze as a child marks him as the imaginative, precious dreamer he’ll become when he grows older. There’s a subtle tension: we moviegoers know what kinds of “hard knocks” await that innocent child, and we fear that he’ll become cynical, rebellious, and emotionally reticent (as teenagers and young adults invariably do). His maturation is as startling and amazing to watch as a compilation of home videos of our own children might be—and without a trace of sentimentality, Boyhood still offers time for wistful reflection about the different directions Mason’s life might have taken. The film is so easygoing, its revelations about human nature so seemingly effortless, that we forget how audacious it truly is: how could Linklater have known when he first cast six-year-old Coltrane how the actor’s real life would affect his performance and change the “future” of his character? And how did he know that the adult actors would willingly continue this journey with him, remaining invested in their characters and able to pick up the threads of those characters’ lives whenever Linklater came by to shoot more scenes during those 12 years? Linklater definitely took risks, but he’s such an unassuming filmmaker that it’s easy to forget. What can’t be overlooked is Linklater’s patience, eye for detail, and genuine empathy for children and adults. Nor will the incredible performances of Coltrane and the rest of the cast be forgotten soon. Boyhood is a remarkable experiment and true cinematic marvel that will make moviegoers think about their own childhoods with new psychological and philosophical insight.
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Seniors/Students with valid ID: $7
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