Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ Pulls Off Something Never Done Before in Film

After the recent releases of the fourth Transformers film and the Melissa McCarthy bomb Tammy, moviegoers will actually have some choices that have done well with the critics coming to theaters this weekend with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Richard Linklater’s highly anticipated Boyhood.

Boyhood has an impressive 100 percent Fresh rating from reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes. The movie, which follows new actor Ellar Coltrane over the course of 12 years as he literally grows up in front of the camera, was an experiment that has paid off for Linklater as critics are heaping adoration on this study of childhood, adolescence, and family. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke star as the young character Mason’s parents, and Linklater’s daughter Lorelei plays the younger sister.

The movie was shot in 39 days spread out over the course of 12 years, following the fictional broken family as the kids are shuttled around Texas with their mother and a string of loser husbands while receiving visits from their wandering artist father. Obviously there were a lot of risks to this method, but the stars aligned for Linklater’s film. Coltrane aged into an attractive teenager and a decent actor. Arquette and Hawke stayed involved with the project, which critics say is a fascinating look at their own maturation as actors. No one died or dropped out of the film or otherwise changed in a way that wouldn’t be cohesive with the story.

The movie is not just being called a great film, but truly unique. Normally a feature film would use three different actors to portray the Mason character at the different times in his life, or a documentary would be the format used to look at a particular person or community over the course of so many years. Reviews are peppered with phrases like “a unique work in American cinema” (The Hollywood Reporter); “an unprecedented achievement in fictional storytelling” (IndieWire); and “there hasn’t been a film like this one, and there probably never will” (The Telegraph).

In an interview with The Telegraph, Linklater said that the biggest challenge he faced was getting financing, as studios were reluctant to back a movie that would take so long to give them a return on their investment, and which had such a risky premise. The movie eventually found support from IFC and company President Jonathan Sehring, though Linklater is skeptical that another movie like Boyhood will ever be made, even if Boyhood is successful.

“He was insane to commit to it, but good for IFC,” Linklater told The Telegraph. “Jonathan saw it through and he’s still there. The idea that an executive at a company anywhere in this business would green-light it and still be there 12 years later — that’s a statistical anomaly. So if a film like this never gets made again it’ll be for those reasons.”

Boyhood was screened at Sundance earlier this year and is seeing wider release on July 11. The movie is getting more attention for its ambitious premise and big-name director than other independent films might, but it still likely won’t come anywhere near the $576 million worldwide that Transformers: Age of Extinction has made during its two-week run in theaters, per Box Office Mojo.

Boyhood will likely be an awards season favorite given the adoration it’s getting from critics, which will spur more interest in it and help make more money than most experimental films, which is good for the art film community and shows studios that movies like this can be worth the risk.

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