Dazed and Confused – ★★★½
It’s always best to see a film not knowing too much but you’d be hard pressed going into Boyhood not knowing that it follows the life of the same boy for 12 years of his life. The director Richard Linklater is fond of long projects having filmed his “Before” trilogy over the guts of twenty years with the same leads – Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
Ellar Coltrane, the child cast to play Mason, is used throughout, so too is his sister Samantha (played by Lorelei Linklater, yes the director’s daughter) and parents Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. The premise should not be rested solely on the young boy’s shoulders, it’s more so a collective filmic experiment in fictional narrative.
While sounding like the “Up” series created by Granada television back in 1964, Boyhood certainly isn’t a documentary. It follows the pretty banal life of Mason as he gets older. From alcoholic father-in-laws, to first loves and friendships that come and go, we have the whole gamut of suburban American life. Linklater has made a three hour indie film about one of his dazed and confused generation merely setting the action ten years later. Vivian Mercier described Waiting for Godot “as a play in which nothing happens twice” and it is regarded by many to be the greatest play ever written yet with Boyhood the profoundness that Linklater is searching for, like Godot, never arrives.
Where the film excels is in the supporting roles. The most emotionally engaging being his mother played by Patricia Arquette who tries time and time again to provide the best for her children like all mothers only for them to leave the nest as all teenagers must. This is where all drama within the film comes from and Mason is simply a blank slate absorbing his surroundings. Much too blank at times and unable to act. He nails the part of a mumbling slacker shuffling like a zombie through his teen years which granted is how most teens no doubt spend their time but this doesn’t make for riveting cinema.
The film never drags thanks to the vignettes with his parents and sister that pepper the script. There is definite stereotyping in the parental roles with the mother being the source of the drama and the father the comic relief with most of the humour arising from Mason’s chats with his Dad.
Films with a strong narrative focus rest on your fondness of the characters and for me they were all waiting in the wings. Go call your mum.
Released in Ireland on July 11th 2014