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Review Boyhood

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AgentPete

Capo Famiglia
Guardian
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You have to wonder, sometimes, at the cultural divide between the New World and the Old. I was left pondering this, for rather too long, at last night’s preview of Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s much heralded fictional account of the life of a young boy from age six to eighteen. The twist is that the film was shot for a few days every year during that same period, i.e. you’re seeing people grow old before your very eyes.

This may be a radically original cinematic experience for many audiences, but as an concept, it’s not exactly new. French film maker François Truffaut did exactly same thing across five movies, using the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud starting at the age of twelve until thirty. And the British documentary series entitled Up followed the lives of fourteen British children from 1964, when they were seven - and as far as I know it’s still going.

So the “high concept” is not, in point of fact, as wildly original as some of the publicity would have you believe.

In fact, the odd mixture of factual ageing (watching Patricia Arquette grow old and plump before our eyes is disturbingly voyeuristic) and fictional melodrama is rather jarring. This is cinéma vérité in the same way that Big Brother is reality television. The people are real(ish)- but the situations are highly contrived.

But what about the story itself?

I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to separate the “real life” aspect from the underlying plot. These are, after all, working actors, and even though they are ageing in front of our eyes, they are still performing. So how good is the story and the performance?

After two solid hours, I left the cinema. It was just too long, too slow, too schlocky and I simply didn’t care about the fate of any of them. The situations were clichéd, and the dialogue not much better.

This is already a successful film: but it is succeeding on the basis of its much-vaunted high-concept, not on the bass of being a good story well-told.

And I don’t mind that. I can appreciate a great marketing campaign. Heaven knows, we need them in the creative industries at the moment.

Simon Cowell, that great latter-day Barnum, sums up my feelings about Boyhood perfectly when he says: “Create the hype, but don't ever believe it.”
 
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