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Boyhood

Year: 2014
Studio: IFC Productions
Director: Richard Linklater
Producer: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater/John Sloss/Jonathan Sehring
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

In a world (spoken like Don LaFontaine) where Whiplash exists, I couldn't quite understand why Birdman ended up not just the frontrunner for the 2015 Best Picture Oscar, but how it won.

The only explanation I had for it at the time was that Boyhood (which I hadn't seen) had to be such a brilliant movie that only a handful of votes edged Iñárritu's love letter to fame and hubris out in the eleventh hour.

So maybe it was a case of heightened expectations, or maybe I missed something. First problem, Ellar Coltrane as Mason is a dreadful actor. It also didn't help that the sequences about Mason (aside from the performer's lack of talent) were full of everything I hate about teen movies – all self-absorption and the word 'like' 20 times in every sentence.

Second, after all the critical fawning over Patricia Arquette, I expected her performance to bring me to my knees and make me a gibbering wreck, especially the 'college goodbye' sequence I'd heard so much about. Arquette can at least act (unlike Coltrane), but she hardly had to go anywhere extreme, raw or dark – certainly not enough to warrant Best Actress.

There's also the unique style that became the selling point of the film – that it's not about grand, sweeping and profound gestures or moments, but the little things, relationships and experiences.

So however brilliant the making of the movie was, everyone coming together for just a few weeks a year for 12 years so we could see everyone age and change, I think that's really all Boyhood has to offer.

You can't even really talk about the plot, because it's just about how we all – not just the boy of the title – grow and change, how relationships are born, grow and sometimes die, how familiarity can breed contempt and how change is the only constant in life.

Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are kids when we meet them, living with their patient but slightly harried mother, who's now divorced from their Dad (Ethan Hawke). Though she seems to consider him a lazy layabout, he comes back into the kids' lives, their mother goes through a couple more bad relationships, the kids go to school, start drinking, start living and not much more.

It was long, and although the aim of making it about the little moments is creatively noble, I found I could feel the time passing while I waited for something a bit weightier to happen. I was reminded of Hitchcock's assertion that film is the same as life but with the boring bits taken out.

Linklater seems to be more interested in the boring bits and believed he could make a movie out of them. He did, but there's a reason most movies that chart 12 years of time take those bits out, and while it's interesting to see how everyone changes between periods, there's just no story there to prop it all up, and it feels like a gimmick.

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