When you constantly hear how great a film is because it was filmed over 12 years with the same cast, expectations run high. This film did not disappoint in delivering a wonderfully, entertaining story with visibly the best ordinary, expected natural changes in appearance over a 12 year period. Witnessing the changes is enough of a reason to go see this film.
The story itself is a simple one, a boy growing up and life’s twists and turns that come with growing up as seen through his eyes. We meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as a quiet, cute young boy, his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his dad, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). Olivia moves around a lot, uprooting the kids on a whim in attempt to improve her life. Each move winds up in a disaster and the story examines the challenges of growing up through Mason’s viewpoint and experiences.
What detracts from the story is the feeling of being so engrossed in the physical changes over the 12 year period instead of the film itself. Linklater crafts a beautiful tale with varied subplots and entertaining tidbits of the growth process that each character goes through, though seems like everyone needs to grow up, not just Mason. Olivia, thrice married just can’t seem to get it right. Mason Sr. has a Peter Pan complex, he just can’t seem to grow up or hold a steady job, yet he’s the fun dad they see every other week. He infuses his words of wisdom on his children with a cockiness that’s playfully engaging. Mason grows and matures slowly and even when he reaches 18 he still seems like a child just starting to grow up. Yet he displays a curious and expansive thirst for knowledge and creative expression. He seems wise beyond his years but there is always evidence of a childlike quality on the surface.
Everyone ages gracefully and with honesty, Linklater keeps us glued to the story with witty, intelligent dialogue and handles the passage of time adeptly and with creative expression melded into the story. It flows smoothly and flawlessly. Congratulations to Linklater for his honest, entertaining 12 year project documenting the subject of growing up in this world by transporting us into the world of Mason’s boyhood. This film is a delicious growth process that is worth the price of admission.
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater
Company: IFC Films
Now Showing: In Theaters
MPAA Rating: R (language, teen drug and alcohol use, some violence)