Richard Linklater is nothing if not ambitious. In 2013, he brought his celebrated, wholly unexpected trilogy of indie romances – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and the Oscar-nominated Before Midnight – to a close, wrapping up the complex human drama he’s woven with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke over the span of nearly two decades (though for all anybody knows, they might have one more story about Jesse and Celine left to tell); now, Linklater is grooming his latest enterprise, Boyhood, for a theatrical run with its very first trailer, seen above.
What makes Boyhood so special, and part of what has drawn raves for the film during its tenure on the 2014 festival circuit, lies in precedent. Back in 2002, Linklater found and cast a seven-year-old Ellar Coltrane as the picture’s star, which chronicles the growth of a boy from his youngest days up to his freshman year in college; subsequently Linklater, his crew, and his cast (which also includes Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei Linklater) got together to shoot more footage for the production every few years.
Until, that is, twelve years passed and Linklater had all the material he needed to tell Mason’s (Coltrane) story. That’s Boyhood in a nutshell, a two and a half hour opus capturing the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the pain and the joy of the journey from childhood to adulthood. Early reactions make the results sound remarkable, and for good reason; any filmmaker of Linklater’s caliber who devotes themselves to a project as he has with Boyhood is bound to come up with something special in the end.
Linklater isn’t the first filmmaker in the history of the medium to tell one character’s personal narrative using this sort of technique; for example, French New Wave auteur Francois Truffaut did it with Antoine Doinel from 1959 to 1979. But Linklater is one of the few, perhaps even the only, contemporary filmmakers out there to try something this unique and gutsy. Today, Boyhood sounds one of a kind.
There’s no plot here, per se, just a collection of segments that each detail a specific period of time in Mason’s life; the clear endgame here involves Mason attending college, but what happens in between remains up in the air. Then again, maybe not, as anyone with memories of their own childhood can easily guess at the kind of heartbreak Mason endures and the lessons he learns as the years of his life pass him by. The specifics will reveal themselves in the final cut.
Boyhood is still doing festival rounds (including a screening at the Independent Film Festival of Boston), but it’s on track for an early summer release. We’ll see if it lives up to expectations then.
Boyhood arrives in US theaters on July 11th, 2014.