Boyhood (directed by Richard Linklater)

Boy Uninterrupted

Boyhood movieMany films have a preoccupation with time, taking the viewer on a cinematic journey, whether this is emotionally or geographically, we can be transported to the past, the present to the very near or the very distant future. But few films have presented the passage of the time with such precise clarity and restrained elegance as Richard Linklater’s love letter to youth Boyhood. It has been well documented that this has been a film twelve years in the making using the same actors throughout this period to mark an unprecedented representation of authenticity that takes continuity to a whole new level. Yet this does not detract from the films impressive feat, through Linklater’s dedication the emotional pay off reaches new heights of realism.

Boyhood chronicles the years between 6 and 18 in the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from childhood innocence to teenage adolescence marking the progression from boy to young adult. The film begins with Mason lazing on the grass outside his school; it presents the care free existence of simply being a boy, from playing out with friends, dealing with an older annoying sister (Lorelei Linklater) to sneaking the first peak of lingerie clad ladies in a fashion catalogue. When Mason’s mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) decides to go back to school to study, the family have to make the first of many moves. As they leave the house that they had only ever known, there is a bittersweet scene where Mason sees one of his friends on his bike as they are driving away. His friend simply waves as they leave a scene that will resonate for anyone who as a child had to leave all they knew behind in a heartbeat.

Further moves for the family come as a result of Olivia’s unfortunate luck with men, and Mason has to adjust to different parental figures. His own father Mason Sr (Linklater regular Ethan Hawke) is a weekend dad who still acts like a teen himself, driving a classic but impractical car, working on his music, he seems unable to provide the stability that the boy needs yet it is clear he attains family values and he loves his children. As the family moves and changes, Mason goes through goes through all the milestones of teenage years, his first girlfriend, choosing his college course, his first job, all shot with an unfiltered view that makes watching Boyhood at times feel like a documentary.

Boyhood-Ethan-Hawke-Ellar-ColtraneWhilst there are dramatic moments in the film, Linklater does not use a defined plot, instead the ebb and flow of life is delicately captured as the year’s progress. The transitions are seamless, melting through the decades before our eyes. Linklater cleverly uses music and historical and cultural moments to pinpoint where we are in time, songs that are identifiable of a certain summer, the Obama presidential campaign and the emergence of Lady Gaga. By using these references  it instantly creates a connection with the audience and transports them back to these vignettes of time, the use of music in particular capturing that feeling of where we were when we first heard a particular song.

Ellar Coltrane brings a natural vulnerability to Mason’s early years and if he appears slightly stilted in the latter years, this only adds to the awkward teenage phase. The parent’s growth is also integral to the film, Hawke’s manchild has to accept the inevitability that comes with responsibility and get a ‘real’ job whilst Arquette’s mother struggles with the balance of finding love and keeping her family together. When Mason prepares to leave home, Olivia breaks down, the empty nest syndrome becoming a reality and we, as a viewer, feel her pain as we have watched Mason grow too on the screen.


As Mason arrives at college, a scene of potency for those remembering their own experience of leaving home for the first time, he is questioning what to do with his life. In turn we have watched twelve years pass by and may ask ourselves where the time has gone, what we have become and what we will do with our own lives. If film has the ability to hold a magnifying glass up to real life then Boyhood shows us that time moves quickly and that it is in the smaller moments that we are defined.






Review- Mistaken for Strangers (directed by Tom Berninger)

Band (apart) of Brothers

(contains mild spoilers)

Mistaken for Strangers Families, you can’t choose them…but you can ask them to go on tour with you. So is the subject of music documentary Mistaken for Strangers, where Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National, asks his bumbling brother Tom to accompany the band as a roadie/documentary maker. What follows is a funny, bittersweet look at brotherly love and the perils of living in the shadow of a more successful sibling. Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio,  The National have been making music for over 10 years to critical yet minimal fanfare. The release of their fifth album High Violet in 2010 saw the band begin to receive the commercial success that had so far eluded them and they embark upon a tour of Europe and America. Interestingly the band is comprised of two sets of brothers- Scott Devendorf (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) and twins Aaron (guitar and keyboard) and Bryce Dessner (guitar). Lead singer Matt Berninger is the only one of the group who is minus a sibling, which may have prompted his decision to ask his brother Tom to join them on their tour, the fact that he is reminded daily of the brotherly connections and perhaps a little guilt of not spending enough time with his own. From the outset it is clear why Tom is not part of the band of brothers, aside from the nine year age gap, the Berninger boys are poles apart when it comes to music styles and personal temperaments, Matt being suited and serious of lyrics whilst Tom lazes around listening to metal and making low budget horror flicks in his bedroom. Yet it is not the mismatched musical styles that create discord on the road, it is Tom’s inability to follow any simple tasks that he is assigned as a roadie, instead favouring to conduct nonsensical interviews with band members that are badly executed and bizarrely framed. Whilst the frustrations of Matt, the band and their management are pushed to the limit by Tom, Mistaken for Strangers emerges for the viewer as a genuinely funny portrayal of two very different brothers. Tom appears to be in a permanent state of self sabotage from his haphazard filming style to his constant roadie cock ups. Though some may question how inept Tom really is as his short falling as a film-maker are documented on screen yet in his calamities, he has created a highly entertaining narrative that elevates the film from the standard band documentary. national crowd In one scene Tom is asked if he has organised the towels and water for the band which he assures he has done, we then cut to a shot of him running through the halls of the venue, shouting for towels and water. In another scene Tom commits the cardinal sin of losing the VIP list which results in cast members of Lost and Werner Herzog being left in the street before the gig. While the band perform one of their gigs, we see Tom alone in the tour bus drinking the band’s alcohol while listening to Rob Halford’s Christmas album, he at times comes across like Jack Black’s character in School of Rock, had the film not had a happy ending. In scenes where Tom is alone, he cuts a lone figure and empathy begins to form for a man, who may feel like the runt of the litter, to live in the shadow of his brother’s limelight. Yet when we see the Berninger’s parents, it is evident that they have never made him feel this way, he is loved by his family warts and all and there are scenes amid the irritation that Tom creates for Matt, that his older brother may be pushed but he will always forgive his sibling. As Tom tries to complete his film, Matt invites him to stay with his family and there is genuine warmth to these scenes as Matt and his wife welcome him into their home (to which he decamps to his niece’s bedroom and hangs a Robocop poster). The final scene of the film provides the swell of emotional pay-off that you want from a great documentary that focuses on great characters. As The National are performing Terrible Love, the song  builds from low vocals to soaring guitars and Matt goes into the crowd, followed by Tom, who is holding the cable of the microphone. As Matt moves through the sea of people, Tom struggles to keep up with his brother, a symbolic metaphor heightened by the build of the music. But there is also hope in this image, the familiar reassurances that whilst the brother’s lives have gone done different paths, there is hope that they can come together when it matters.

Forthcoming Fancies

Palo Alto (directed by Gia Coppola)

Adapted from James Franco’s short stories of the same name, and starring the actor himself as a sleazy high school soccer coach, Palo Alto presents the familiar path of teenage alienation and disillusionment. Directed by Gia Coppola, from the famous film dynasty, the trailer recalls Auntie Sofia’s  hazy dreamy technique (drawing comparisons with The Virgin Suicides) and obligatory indie cool soundtrack. Early word is that Jack Kilmer (son of Val) produces a stand out performance as a venerable teen and Emma Roberts displays new depths of character.


Life After Beth (directed by Jeff Baena)

In my list of actors/actresses who make anything watchable is Aubrey Plaza who stars in this new zom com. Also starring gloomy pin up of the moment Dane DeHaan, Life After Beth is about a guy who gets a second chance with his deceased girlfriend but may soon regret wanting her back. The zombie comedy has been a well worn genre of late but if anyone can breath new life (ahem) into this premise, it just may be Plaza.


Foxcatcher (directed by Bennett Miller)

Coming off some pretty hefty buzz from Cannes, and bagging a best director accolade for director Bennett Miller along the way, Foxcatcher tells the true story of eccentric millionaire John DuPont who sets a destructive course when he begins a relationship with Olympic wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. Steve Carell is almost unrecognisable as DuPont, complete with facial prosthetics and inhibiting a creepy tone that we haven’t seen from his usual comedic routine. Foxcatcher has already been marked as an Oscar frontrunner but the jury may be split onto whom to reap the acting gongs to in a film that boasts stellar performances from Carell and renaissance man Channing Tatum.  This will not be the film that many Carell and Tatum fans will expect but it may be all the better for that reason.