“I love escaping into film because everyday life I find quite troublesome,” the musician Alison Goldfrapp once said in an interview. “So any excuse to go into a cinema and say goodbye to the world for a couple of hours, or in a book or whatever, is great.”
Hopefully, nobody will ever lend her a copy of “Boyhood,” a film that is so realistic that it is, at times, painful to watch. There is no escaping “everyday life” during Richard Linklater’s 165-minute film.
“Boyhood” is a grand, cinematic experiment. The movie was filmed for a few weeks out of each year for 12 years, from 2002 to 2014.
It is a simple story about the life of a single mom — a perfect Patricia Arquette — her two children and their weekend dad, Mason Sr., played by Ethan Hawke. Then again, no story about adolescence, adulthood and life’s unanswered questions is ever really that simple.
The movie grew up as the actors did. You can see each step of puberty in the face of Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, the titular boy, and hear it in his crackling voice as he grows from first-grader to college freshman.
Arquette transitions from beautiful, slim and buoyant to beautiful, soft and maternal. Hawke, on the other hand, is proof of the unfair phenomenon that men become more attractive as they age.
Many of the film’s production elements added even more layers of realism: it was shot in Linklater’s native Houston, Texas, and his daughter, Loreleai Linklater, plays Mason’s older sister, Sam. Linklater, who wrote and directed “Dazed and Confused” and the “Before Sunrise” trilogy, frequently uses his home state as a backdrop to his films.
Linklater also had his actors live together at times during filming and Arquette often read to her onscreen children before they fell asleep. This intimacy is palpable on the screen and also makes all of the familial fights, trials and triumphs feel very authentic.
“Boyhood’s” subject matter may seem mundane and, honestly, it is at times. Overall, this story of a modern mom trying to do right by her kids and a boy who is just trying to figure it all out is sweet, hopeful and poignant.
You may not escape your own life by watching this film. But just as a friend shares with you concern about her own daily struggles, it may just make you feel like you’re not the only one out there who doesn’t have all the answers.
Linklater’s film experiment certainly paid off. “Boyhood” is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Actress for Arquette and Best Supporting Actor for Hawke.