KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Film

On Boyhood, parenting and the passing of time

by Rochelle Siemienowicz , August 29, 2014Leave a comment

lead_large

Since its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival, film critics have been falling over themselves to lavish love upon Richard Linklater’s (almost) unanimously adored Boyhood. The film has an astonishing 99 per cent approval rating at reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and without further ado, allow me to add my own gushing praise to the chorus: Boyhood is a sublime meditation on childhood, parenting, and the passing of time. It’s a time-lapse experiment that succeeds brilliantly, creating an unforgettable and very special cinematic experience that’s sure to be included in my Top Ten films of this year.

The danger, of course, is that all this adulation sets expectations far too high. This runs the risk of spoiling viewers’ very personal discovery of an intimate and unassuming low budget film which is also ambitious and poetic.

Shot over twelve years in Linklater’s home state of Texas, with the same central cast reconvening for a few days each year, the film traces the growth of a clear-eyed, sensitive but fairly ordinary American boy, Mason (Ellar Colltrane). We first meet him as a dreamy, snub-nosed six-year-old and leave him, 165 transportive minutes later, as a gangly but self-aware eighteen-year-old, eating hash cookies and philosophising about ‘being in the moment’ on his first day at college.

Joining Mason on this journey through time are his older sister, played by Linklater’s own sparky daughter, Lorelei (who, it must be said, looks nothing like the family she’s supposed to be related to in this film – but I guess that happens in real life), and their divorced parents, played superbly by a low-gloss Patricia Arquette and an increasingly weary-looking Ethan Hawke. The adults’ own ageing and development, as they fumble and learn through difficult careers and failed marriages (Arquette’s character, in particular, attracts drunks and dogmatic dickheads like flypaper) is just as interesting as the boy’s.

Boyhood is shot in naturalistic style (on 35mm film rather than digitally) by frequent Linklater cinematographer Lee Daniel (together with Shane Kelly), and edited by Sandra Adair, who has cut his other major works (including Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and the Before Sunrise trilogy). It finds visual beauty not just in the natural wonders of the rock pools and mountain hikes on occasional display, but also in the everyday brick-and-tile bungalows of middle class suburbia, and the flat streets where Mason wheels around on his bicycle, and later, in his beat-up old car, getting drunk, kissing girls, and wondering at the hypocrisy of adults.

It’s all beautifully evocative of both time and place, but as Nathan Heller’s excellent New Yorker profile of the director observes, ‘Linklater’s notion of cinematic refinement has less to do with virtuosic camerawork than with creating a moment that’s worth capturing.’ This is revealed in the performances, which no doubt derive some of their conviction from the fact that the actors collaborated on the script, and also in the way small moments are allowed to play across faces. An accretion of minor details adds up to a life that passes, as lives do, so fleetingly. It is this depiction of the swift, inexorable passing of time that makes the film so tender and melancholic, without ever being in the slightest bit depressing.

Linklater told Variety that the film was ‘an ongoing collaboration. But the biggest collaborator here, looking back, was time.’ Time, and the changes it brings to our bodies, our souls and our relationships, are a central theme of Linklater’s masterpieces. Boyhood, yes, but also the delightful and wise relationship trilogy featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Seek them out if you haven’t seen them already.

If there’s anything I learned from Boyhood, it’s how hollow and self-important an adult’s ‘advice’ sounds when it hits a youngster’s ear, especially if it’s delivered with a nagging tone. Mason tries to be patient with his parents when they spout endless admonishments. But it’s the way the adults embody their own choices and values that makes far more of an impression on the boy, and like all kids, he’s going to be his own person, regardless. We’re all first-timers at life, fumbling with the limits of our span on earth.

Boyhood is in national release from 4 September.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a Melbourne-based film journalist, reviewer and editor. 

ACO logo




9781863957434

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their June picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lisa-gorton_the-life-of-houses

James Tierney

A Novel of Longer Exhalations: Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses

It’s sometimes said that each book teaches you how to read it. That each way of telling a story needs to not only beguile anew but needs to tutor the reader in the ways to best attend its pages. Read more »

9781743316337

Danielle Binks

Finding Books for Young Readers: The Reading Children’s Book Prize

James Patterson once said, ‘There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading and kids who are reading the wrong books.’ So how do we get the right books into the hands of budding bibliophiles? Well, the Readings Children’s Book Prize Shortlist is a great place to start. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

2691149967_01b38304f3_b

Rebecca Shaw

Fuck Yeah: Swearing like a lady

I had been trying to pinpoint exactly why the HBO television show Veep brings me such joy. Yes, it is a very funny, very well-written show with a great cast, but that didn’t quite go far enough in explaining the immense enjoyment it gives me. The eureuka moment finally struck when I stumbled over a compilation video of the best insults from the show. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover-main

Brodie Lancaster

We Are All Kardashians

For the past five years, I have loved and been obsessed with the Kardashians. Specifically, the E! reality series that made them famous. I often feel the need to intellectualise why I like these series and the people on them – you know, because I’m not a moron, and these are shows about morons, for morons. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »