Richard Linklater has certainly always dipped into the pool of creative cinema with the direction of his various movie credits. In Boyhood, opening in limited release this weekend locally including a venue at the River Oaks Three, Linklater spent the last dozen or so years filming the story of a young lad who becomes a young man.
IFC Films funded Linklater to the tune of an ultra-low budget film every year. The total sum would be the costume budget on a tentpole studio popcorn actioner, yet Linklater took said funds and used it to shoot consecutive scenes depicting the life of a mother and her two children over 12 years of their life. Residents of Texas will easily recognize scenes shot at Houston Astros Games, or the main campus of University of Houston, or Austin or San Marcos or Big Bend.
The conceit has been around since the dawn of film. Most notably the British Seven Up! documentary series, which is still going strong revisiting its principal characters every seven years (56 Up premiered on British television two years ago.). But look at films by major directors where they direct the same actor over a period of a generation: John Ford and John Wayne; Howard Hawks and John Wayne; François Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Léaud; Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, and the list goes on. Consider that silent film directors like Charlie Chaplin and others essentially filmed themselves over years of time.
Back to Boyhood. You can read the plot points in any review. Simply, the film runs 166 minutes, which is more than Lincoln (150 minutes) and less than Titanic (194 minutes), and is enough time for everyone watching to get into the pulse and vibration of this particular film. Boyhood is like a litmus test for any audience watching. Everyone will associate with a different aspect of the development process unfolding before your eyes. For me it was the thread about a guy who meets the mother first as a day laborer. She tells him he should continue in college. Years later he meets her at a restaurant where he, having completed college and obtaining a degree, is managing the place where she is having an emotionally charged meal with her kids (now in their late teens). He thanks her for inspiring him to further himself in this crazy world. Her children are oblivious because they are in their own world. I was floored.
Others will note the arcs of the characters, the mother going through two marriages to the same kind of alcoholic asshole personality types, or the ex-husband dash part-time father who pops in when its convenient to bond with his children. Or even the overall grandeur of the story, a kind of epic tale of getting to the place where you can be cool for the first time.
In a sense I want to review my own growth in relation to Richard Linklater films. When Slacker came out I was still pretty rebellious, a little less so by the time of Dazed and Confused, but still a bit confused. More recent films like Bernie and Before Midnight had me in a reflective glance looking over events of my own life with a weak sense of wisdom trying to understand what has brought me to this point in my own trajectory of tediousness.
In the end Boyhood is an exceptional indie film that delivers the goods to crowds both familiar and foreign. Twelve years of life equals 105,120 hours. Linklater sums up the fear, hopes and aspirations of every person who ever lived in less than three.