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The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

“Boyhood,” An American Masterpiece

Rating: ★★★★★

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing

In “Boyhood,” director and screenwriter Richard Linklater’s one-of-a-kind masterpiece, the story of a young boy’s transition from childhood to adulthood is filmed over a span of 12 years.  In Linklater’s film, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) serves as the principal character, an intelligent young boy whose adolescence and life story is the core of the main tale. Linklater’s coming-of-age drama plays itself out with a kind of potency and emotion that viewers have not seen in many other movies, which can easily be attributed to his form of direction.

Linklater filmed the movie in different chapters for 12 years, doing what no director has ever done in film before: capturing the essence of growth and aging with the same actors and characters in a feature drama film. Until now, film seemed like a time-sensitive form of art, depending on makeup artists and age-progression technology to express the passage of time, but Linklater’s innovative method opens new doors in filmmaking.

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In 2002, Linklater acted on his idea to create a film that expresses growth by filming a different bit of the movie each year for twelve years. He put together a small cast of actors, including six-year-old Coltrane, and signed them up to film a few days each summer to create the newest chapter in Mason’s life. Mason’s mother and father are played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, respectively, and the two performances have received unanimous praise.

With “Boyhood,” Linklater creates a story filled with the wonder of everyday life and the nuanced transitions of growth in the 21st century. The first scene in the film shows Mason as a six-year-old boy laying in the grass, looking up to the sky, soon-to-be fetched by his mother (Patricia Arquette). His thoughts are a mystery, as no voice-over narrates the film, but the opening moment establishes the tranquility of Mason’s character. After 12 years, the last scene of the movie shows Coltrane, the same actor, portraying Mason as a bearded 18-year-old, a young man reflecting back on the moments of his life and thrilled for the adventures in his future.

Arquette and Hawke are each nominated for their supporting performances in the film, and since having won a Golden Globe Award, a Critics Choice Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, Arquette seems to be one of the only sure-fire hits to win an Oscar this year. The seamless and realistic dialogue of the Oscar nominated script comes off as extremely natural and unrefined, which is part of the screenplay’s magic. In order to capture the grand scheme of childhood and teenage angst, Linklater wrote a loose script which he pieced together and finalized before filming each summer to create a coherent movie, taking memories from his own childhood as a central theme.

“‘The idea hit me, Well, what if you filmed a little bit every year?’” Linklater said in an interview with HBO’s Vice News. “‘I could actually express that bigger canvas of maturing and hit a lot of other points along the way.”

Linklater, however, wanted to make sure that the film did not only capture the stages of Mason’s childhood, but also the specific aspects of aging, as seen in the characters of Arquette and Hawke. The stories of the parents are, while not in the center stage, important facets of the story and critical to its progression. Mason’s mother makes choices as a single mom provide the film with much of its dramatic arc. Mason’s capacity to deal with familial issues is stretched as he struggles to adapt to the various lifestyles his mother tries to create for him and his sister in an effort to build a “real family.” Mason’s mother and father are separated, and after initially making patchy efforts to integrate himself into the children’s lives, following a period of hiatus in Alaska, his father resurfaces to become a vital influence in Mason’s childhood. In many of the film’s scenes, Mason’s father gives him and his sister crucial pieces of advice and becomes a strong, loving figure for his children.

Declared as a landmark in filmmaking, “Boyhood” has established itself as an immediate milestone, and is currently nominated for six Academy Awards, serving as a frontrunner for the prizes of Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress.

Through Coltrane’s performance and Linklater’s direction, the character of Mason embodies  a champion of every child and teenager experiencing the triumphs and pitfalls of youth,

and even though our situations in life may not exactly emulate that of Mason’s, his struggles and triumphs have resonated with viewers everywhere.


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Hanna Khosravi, Opinions Editor

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