Many movies are more profound than “Boyhood,” but life is not that profound really. See the way director Richard Linklater handles how profoundly life isn’t profound. See a boy growing up. See his sister, his mother, his father, his step-fathers. See his friends, the girls in his life, his solitary inclinations, his schooling.
Many films are better acted than “Boyhood,” but life is rarely acted as well as a film about life. See the way Linklater shapes genuine facets and rhythms out of lives being lived in a movie. Part of how he achieves this involves the ingenious gimmick of spending twelve years filming “Boyhood.” That’s twelve years of aging and who knew what would happen with those kid actors growing up through those years.
Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (yes, the director’s daughter) started the project when each was seven years old and finished when they were 19. Veteran actors Patricia Arquette (as their mom) and Ethan Hawke (as their dad) ground this storytelling sturdily and sensitively. With them, too, the script had to be adapted as all those years unfolded.
Calling the unique timeline of the filmmaking a gimmick understates the sustained vision of the movie Richard Linklater brought to light. Many, many films have bigger moments, bigger effects than “Boyhood,” but he dismisses such things almost entirely. He contrives an organic quality all his own. This is a trademark of how Linklater turns ideas into well realized films.
Linklater made “Before Sunset” nine years after “Before Sunrise” and nine years prior to “Before Midnight.” Once again fleshing out characters and relationship, the actors age in real time with a sort of time lapse videography that leverages two nearly decade-long gaps.
Between “Sunrise” and “Sunset,” Linklater filmed live actors for “Waking Life” then morphed it into animation. Rendering its dreamscape intellectual musings, he concocts an inner time trip. Before all these, he took an early shot at time sculpting with “Slacker.” This semi-arbitrary crunching of scenes yields variably satisfying results, but in this case his sense of time almost makes a character out of the scene sequence.
It is tempting to throw superlatives at “Boyhood.” However, it seems like higher praise to say that this is the best so far from a writer/director who turns freshly conceived approaches into untypically satisfying movie experiences.