Sunday, August 10, 2014

Boyhood (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


The singular director Richard Linklater hits big with nothing less than a human epic. "Boyhood" is a visual roman a clef, as subtle and introspective as it is personal.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is a six year old boy, nervous and reticent over his parents divorce. This is very much a concept film, given that we follow Mason along with his mom, Olivia(Patricia Arquette) his dad, Mason (Ethan Hawke) and his sister, Samantha (Linklater's own daughter Lorelei) for the space of twelve actual years, in what is very close to real time.

Following a group of fictional characters, aside from the documentary series "28 Up" by Michael Apted, has never been done.

In this film, we sense what it actually feels like for a young person to mature and it unfolds before our eyes like a Texas cactus.

Faced with domestic unrest, Mason retreats into himself. His mother meets a militaristic and headstrong teacher who at first seems engaging and fun, but soon turns violent with alcoholic rage.

The wonder of it all, is in its softness and delicate detail that spins in the camera with the short pungency of haiku: we see Mason in long takes arguing with the authenticity of a person in his private space. We see these characters doing what is often unthinkable---being bored.

At times, when Mason is pensive and lethargic the story moves like a rhythmic tome, at others when the camera winds in between doorways to show a rabid and frothing  stepfather, the story has the percussiveness of a psychological horror story.

Mason has a great range here from a fledgling curious kid, mischievous tween, a disaffected teen and then to a young adult, nearly obsessed by national paranoia.

Samantha too evolves from a kind, idealistic young girl, to a self centered monotone teen, and then moves a bit outside her shell again.

In addition to its people, this is also very much a story of America.

We are bombarded at first by some mechanized and aggressive imagery from the Manga on TV to the gulf war, but through the course of the story, technology's death grip on culture lessens, if ever so slightly, though Mason's lament on intimacy in cyberspace.

The father oscillates from a bohemian disordered lay-about to a straight laced, semi-religious person who sells insurance.

It is a rare thing that every character moves with organic bends and stops---as life often does---no one character rings false.

The state of Texas in all its plaid homophobia and desolation is seen here as it is, or might be, in some populations. There are churches, bars, white-supremacy houses, and blue grass jamborees. But like a human being, Texas, the place transforms as well, with blue and red orbits of Obama signs that sprout on lawns like lollipops.

Better yet, there is enough here to make us ponder and reflect within the film. There is just as much not known about Mason and his parents as there is revealed and that is what is rare.

Mason emerges to us as a friend on a Texas street deep within the western suburbs where clusters of taciturn, hooded kids barely mumble hello. We follow him, sticking to the camera and Mason in turn, stares at us with his camera.

We can't pull away.

When Mason's deep voice finally emerges as a young adult, the fact that we have watched this boy from age six, sneaks up on us all and hits us like a slug from a 30 ought 6.

"Boyhood" is a rich and thoughtful film that unfolds like a novel, yet it also entertains and playfully toys throughout (as if its three hour  running time is a daring aside to audiences)

Don't let the film's scope intimidate you. "Boyhood" is very much a poetic meditation on Ray Bradbury's evocative "Dandelion Wine" and it is sure to leave you with many questions, not only regarding its characters, but more compellingly, on the nature of film as it is predominantly consumed today.

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