‘Boyhood’ chronicles 12 years in character’s life

‘Boyhood’ chronicles 12 years in character’s life

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— Matt Lankes / IFC

Director Richard Linklater’s new film, “Boyhood,” opens at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. One of the superstars from the 1990s Indie movement, Mr. Linklater is probably best known for his trio of films about a couple, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who meet on a train in Europe and fall in love in “Before Sunrise,” (1995); renew their romance nine years later in “Before Sunset,” (2004); and, most recently, continue their seasoned relationship after 20 years together in “Before Midnight” (2013).

A highly versatile director, Mr. Linklater has produced comedies like “Bad News Bears” (2005), “School of Rock” (2003) and his breakout film, “Slacker” (1991); as well as documentaries including “Fast Food Nation” (2006). Linklater fiction films tend to take place over 24 hours and be set in Texas, where the director was born, grew up, and returned after working on an oil rig.

In “Boyhood” the director tries a new approach, following the life of Mason  Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane, from the age of five to 18. Mason lives with his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, and his sister Samantha, played by the director’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater. Mason’s dad –– divorced from his mom –– is played by frequent Linklater cast member Ethan Hawke. Viewers will enjoy the remarkable experience of watching not just Mason Jr., but the actor who plays him, grow up before their eyes, since the film was shot over 12 years.

Mr. Linklater masterfully depicts the messy but loving dynamics of a Texas-based, Middle-America family. Mom runs through three marriages, gets an advanced degree and a job teaching psychology, and moves the family numerous times over the course of the movie. Viewers will watch how Mason Jr., a dreamy, sensitive boy, reacts to the life-changing experiences thrust upon him and his sister Sam by their parents. His father, Mason Sr., plays an important role in Mason Jr.’s life, as do his mother’s other husbands and the stepsiblings who move in and out of his world.

As Mason Jr., moves toward adulthood, the viewers see him struggle with his responses to his experiences and to the decisions that arise over the 12 years covered by the film. Shooting from 2002 to 2013, Mr. Linklater brought the cast together annually, and, in effect, first created a series of 10 to 12 short films, each representing another year in Mason Jr.’s life and that of his family. Amazingly enough, the entire film was shot in 39 days over 12 years’ time. Rather than rely on the conventional Hollywood melodrama formula, “Boyhood’s” two-and-a-half hours unfold in an episodic format. As such, the movie establishes the deeply satisfying kind of intimacy that comes from the serial nature of the best TV shows.

“Serendipity: The Story of Tony Hussein Hinde,” Thursday, August 21, 8 pm, The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and information, visit tmvff.org.

 “Boyhood,” Friday, August 22; Saturday, August 23; Monday, August 25; Tuesday, August 26, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Society, Vineyard Haven. $12; $9 members; $7 under 14. For tickets and information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.