Every now and then, a film comes along that shatters cinematic convention; Birdman with a one-shot style, Hardcode Henry with a unique first-person view giving it that video-game feeling, and Boyhood. Usually, if a film takes place over a long period of time, certain techniques are used: flashbacks, creative shooting, employing younger look-a-like actors or using de-aging software. Boyhood, however, does something rarely seen in film, and known mostly by British documentary series ‘7 Up!’ which follows the lives of a group of British children every seven years, starting from when they were aged seven in 1964, and the latest episode ’63 Up’ aired in 2019.
Filming for the ambitious Boyhood started in 2002, and parts of the filming were completed every year until its release in 2014. The project was so ground-breaking that Hollywood didn’t have an official process for it; the cast and crew – including 6-year-old Ellar Coltrane, who played the main character, Mason – were unable to sign contracts as California law prohibits contracts longer than 7 years. In fact, director Richard Linklater, known for School of Rock and the ‘Before’ series, told his frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke, who plays the father in Boyhood, that if he were to die during filming, Hawke would have to take over as director.
There is a cliché that the cast and crew become like one big family onset, but it was different for Boyhood, because this family had a re-union every year for 12 years. Additionally, Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, plays the part of the protagonist’s sister in the film, so for him, it really was family, and he got to see his daughter grow up before his eyes, or before his lens, throughout the process.
Despite the technical achievements of Boyhood, the film managed to capture the perfect ‘coming-of-age’ story with a generation-spanning playlist of iconic songs featuring artists including Coldplay, The Flaming Lips, Gotye and Arcade Fire.
The acting was truly something special, too. It’s therefore unsurprising that Patricia Arquette won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her incredible performance as the protagonist’s mother, and that Ethan Hawke also got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
All in all, no film – particularly one as small-scale and low-budget as Boyhood, has impressed me as much since its release. It needs to be said that although Boyhood isn’t the only film to span over several years, I do feel that it is the most successful in doing so.
Would you place Boyhood in your top 10/25/100/1000 films? Comment below and let me know!