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Review: Boyhood is just bearable

Last updated on: November 14, 2014 09:32 IST

A scene from BoyhoodOnce the initial wide-eyed worship of the filming process fades away, all that Boyhood leaves you with is a faint sense of nostalgia and not much else, says Paloma Sharma.

Richard Linklater, who previously brought to us A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock and the Before Sunrise films, unveils his magnum opus in the form of one of the bravest experiments in cinematic history -- Boyhood.

Filmed over a period of approximately 12 years, from May 2002 to October 2013, Boyhood chronicles the life and times of Mason Evans, Jr (Ellar Coltrane) from ages six to seventeen along with the lives of his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and father Mason Evans, Sr (Ethan Hawke).

The film begins with Mason, Jr and Samantha hiding in their bedroom, listening to their single mother and her boyfriend yell at each other about Olivia spending too much time on her children and too little time with him.

Olivia then moves her children to Houston so that she can finish her degree at the University of Houston and get a chance at better employment.

It is in Houston that the children reconnect with their father.

Boyhood takes the audience on a journey into and out of adolescence, primarily through young Mason's eyes, as he tries to navigate the swamp of puberty, drugs and alcohol, his parents' many marriages and occasional unemployment.

From a purely technical point of view, Boyhood is sheer brilliance.

Linklater retains his entire cast through the 11 plus years of filming, with the script changing as the children grow, often in different directions.

It is amazing to think that the actors themselves had a part in deciding where their track would lead.

Linklater makes sure he incorporates popular music and political conversations in order to give both indication and an authentic feel to the film.

One can only marvel at the dedication of the entire cast and crew who stuck with the project for over a decade.

However, that is all behind the scenes.

The finished product itself is quite another matter.

As an average viewer of the non-intellectual variety, I found myself more in awe of Richard Linklater and his team than the actual film itself.

Boyhood serves more as a checklist of experiences that a young person goes through, instead of an instrument of introspection into the pivotal moments of human life.

Boyhood either lacks drama or slips into melodrama as soon as something remotely exciting begins to happen.

While Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane are perfectly cast, Lorelei Linklater increasingly begins to stick out like a sore thumb as the film progresses.

As a young Samantha, Linklater is absolutely believeable but as time progresses, it becomes almost hard to ignore that she is not part of the family. She only begins to get back into it once her character moves away to college.

Ethan Hawke, for his part, seems more like his character from the Before series, than he does Mason's dad until later in the film.

Ellar Coltrane, I suspect, gets off a little easier than the rest because the film primarily centres around his character and who he is at any point of time will decide who Mason will be.

Patricia Arquette is by far the best.

She radiates frustration and in the last scene that we see her in, she both amazes and terrifies the viewer by her conclusion about the futility of life.

While Boyhood is a novel concept that, when put into action, marks an important event in filmmaking, the film itself is only just bearable.

Once the initial wide-eyed worship of the filming process fades away, all that Boyhood leaves you with is a faint sense of nostalgia and not much else.

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Paloma Sharma/Rediff.com in Mumbai
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