Review: Boyhood

– by David Morgan-Brown

boyhood posterThe impressive feat of filming sections of a feature film over a 12 year period to capture the passing of time for not only a young boy but his family as well is a filmic exercise that I ended up admiring more than I liked. Richard Linklater has already established himself as a fine American filmmaker of modern realism, with films like Slackers, Dazed and Confused, and the Before series showing he’s someone who eschews story and plot in favour of character, and what characters he has been able to conjure, with the help of some excellent acting and dialogue along the way. With Boyhood, most of these good points are in the first half of this film, where the strong acting and dedicated grounded realism, along with the unique concept of this project being well executed and edited, are wonderfully set up and make this an engaging and easy watch.

However, it’s the second half that shows how wonkily asymmetrical the pacing ultimately is, with more focus on the boy’s late teenage years which aren’t as interesting for a number of reasons. The drama is lessened, with intense and upsetting domestic sequences replaced with sloppy teenage love and heartbreak. This teenage character is not so interesting at this later age due to little outward personality he has and he just comes across as at best average and at worst dull, which this film unfortunately emulates (as character study movies tend to do). The pacing doesn’t get easier as the film progresses, with false ending upon false ending that really tried my patience, eventually ending at what the film thinks to be the correct ending, though it could’ve stopped short forty minutes earlier, or it could’ve gone on for another two and a half hours – it wouldn’t have really mattered. This is the major problem with Boyhood, its breezy mood gives it only an ethereal presence that just slipped right past me, without anything interesting to be communicated about growing up. So many scenes that make up the film are so fleeting that the film never solidifies itself as a complete work.

Many of the scenes in the second half could’ve been excised, leaving the film perhaps at a two-hour mark with a consistent run-through of each of the boy’s ages – unfortunately, so much time has been given to the least interesting parts of the film where the series of lectures on growing up all feel like they’re coming from a 40-something year old dude who still skateboards and has long hair.

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