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Laramie Movie Scope: Boyhood

The drama of ordinary life, highlighted, intensified

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 12, 2014 -- Ordinarily, we don't get these kinds of low-profile, limited-release films in Laramie, but we lucked out on this one. The highest-rated current film on Metatcritic is “Boyhood,” and Regal brought it into town along with another film I thought we'd never see at the Fox Theater, “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” A lot of films don't live up to their reputation, but “Boyhood” does.

This was filmed over a 12 year period with the same cast of actors, so we see these kids actually grow up in front of our eyes. That's not the real reason this film seems so realistic, however. The real trick is in the screenplay (this film is written and directed by Richard Linklater) which is so refreshingly adult, realistic, dramatic and reflective of today's society. Linklater's representation of people and society is right on the money. The acting is also excellent.

There is one scene in the movie that seems to illustrate Linklater's mastery of observational cinema more than any other. It is a scene in which several unsupervised young boys drink beer, break boards with their bare hands and lie about their sexual conquests. This scene is so real it could have been part of a documentary. This is just what little dudes do (to paraphrase Tod Higgins in “Parenthood”).

Although this film depicts the lives of ordinary people going through ordinary kinds of crises, there is plenty of drama, and even some danger in the film, especially when the mother (played by Patricia Arquette of “Fast Food Nation”) marries a man, Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella), who turns out to be an abusive, alcoholic control-freak who threatens the very safety of their children.

Although the movie is mainly about a boy, Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane), growing up, the mother's trials and sacrifices are a big part of it too. Other principal cast members are Mason's sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter) and Mason's biological father (Ethan Hawke).

These characters are not static, they change over time, and this applies to the adults as well as the children. Mason's biological father is a bit of a wreck at first, but he straightens out his life. Bill Welbrock seems to have his act together at first, but he falls apart when alcoholism gets the best of him. The mother gets beat up (sometimes literally) by life and finally begins to wonder what is left of her after the kids leave the nest.

Mason is devastated when his girlfriend breaks up with him. But his biological father has some wise words for him, in essence, he tells his son that this happens to everyone. In a funny scene, he also has “the talk” with his kids, who are totally embarrassed. The film also deals with drug use, bullying, education, and a variety of topics.

The ending of the film is perfect. In his first days at college he is apprehensive about his future. Then, he meets some new friends. Suddenly, things are looking up for Mason. Life can turn on a dime, for good or bad, for fortune or for tragedy. This film shows us a lot of life's big and little ups and downs. This is a great film. The best one I've seen so far this year. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)