Boyhood’s biggest victory lies in the fact that by the end of the movie, you’ve focussed entirely on Mason Jr.’s coming-of-age, while the fact that this is the most uniquely made film in the history of cinema has probably slipped your mind.
Don’t get me wrong – no one’s ever going to forget that this film was shot over a period of 12 years, which is why the working title for this film was The Twelve-Year Project.
No one’s going to forget that the cast could not sign contracts for the film due to the De Havilland Law, which makes it illegal to contract someone for more than seven years of work.
No one’s going to forget that Linklater actually requested Ethan Hawke to complete the film if he died during filming.
However, that’s no reason for watching or liking the film, right? Just because it was MADE uniquely doesn’t mean it has to be unique, or good.
But that is exactly where Linklater scores – Boyhood works wonderfully as a coming-of-age film, arguably the best in the history of films.
Boyhood follows the life of Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) from childhood (age: 6 years old), all the way through adolescence till he’s 18. His stirring performance is ably supported by his pragmatic, no-nonsense mother Olivia Evans (Patricia Arquette), his happy-go-lucky and loving father Mason Evans Sr. (Ethan Hawke) and his annoying, claim-to-know-it-all sister Samantha Evans (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of Richard Linklater).
As we follow the Evans’ life through the Bush administration and into the Obama era, Mason Jr. encounters every possible situation that boys of his age in the Americas would have. And it’s not even a uniquely American experience – I bet if we put up a mirror to our lives, what would reflect back is the story of Boyhood. Reading naughty magazines, first encounter with a girl, bullying at school et al. Not only that, he and his sister have to cope with a couple of their mother’s failed attempts at finding a stable relationship.
Eventually though, the boy finds his niche in the world as you would expect. And at the end of the film, you feel a sense of satisfaction.
The Rabbit from the Hat
Until it hits you – it’s all the same actors! No CGI, no make-up – just good, old-fashioned ageing.
In a world where every other film ‘tricks’ you into believing stuff through deftly placed CGI, Linklater relies on the best CGI trick of all-time – time itself. That’s what makes Boyhood so credible, so believable and so relatable. Ellar Coltrane doesn’t grow up to be Chris Pine or some Hollywood young hunk – he grows up as Ellar Coltrane and that, in today’s day and age, is damn nigh unbelievable, until you see it for yourself. None of the acting or emotion is forced – it’s all just a natural process enabled by time.
It’s Richard Linklater’s ‘Prestige’.
You already know the verdict. Boyhood is an experience you cannot miss on the big screen. It deserves to be seen in all its 70 MM glory. It is the best movie of the year (pushing Interstellar to No. 2), and the best coming-of-age Hollywood film of all time.
Sure it shows up the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles crime journalism, but only one man could have made that look creepier than it already is.
I’ll try and keep this review short. Taut, actually, like the film.
Visually, Nightcrawler looks like the love-child of Martin Scorcese’s epic Taxi Driver and Nicolas Winding Refn’s breakthrough Drive. And anything that arrives as a combination of those two films has to be BRILLIANT. I doff the first hat then, to Robert Elswit, the cinematographer.
The background score by James Newton Howard is spine-chilling, to say the least. He makes Los Angeles seem like some kind of a debauched Chinatown (yes, similar to Polanksi’s). There isn’t a single positive note in the music he plays, except maybe for the protagonist. To him I doff my second hat.
Did I say ‘protagonist’ earlier? Louis ‘Lou’ Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is anything but. He’s more like a full-blown antagonist. He is slimy. He is sleazy. He will probably sell his mother as a news item to gain fame. And yes, he’s the cog around which the story revolves – life as a freelance reporter in the Los Angeles crime journalism scene. He lives life by this one maxim, which he utters during the film – to win the lottery, you gotta make the money to buy a ticket.
Revealing anything more would be a disservice to the movie. But I can say one thing for sure – Lou Bloom is probably the creepiest Hollywood antagonist since… Count Dracula or Hannibal Lecter? Sure, he won’t drink your blood or eat your flesh, but he’ll make it tremble with fear. And that’s the third and final hat I’m doffing – to Jake Gyllenhaal. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you one of the frontrunners for the Best Actor Academy Award.
I’m not saying anything else. Go watch this cracker of a film yourselves and be comforted by the thought that people like Lou Bloom exist – they’re probably living next door. And he likes the night time – because the city shines brightest at night.
Behind all the hardcore quantum physics and rocket science lies a big, beating heart at the centre of Interstellar.
‘Normal’ isn’t a word you’d use for Christopher Nolan. Oh no sir, normalcy was never part of his grand plan. Especially not for what I consider his magnum opus, Interstellar.
Is this the greatest space exploration film of our generation? Most certainly, in my opinion. Is it the greatest of all time? Definitely not, that honour still (and probably always will) remain with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Safe to say though that Kubrick will probably be smiling in heaven, given the number of nods Nolan has given to his masterpiece.
And it’s not just Kubrick. Nolan has generously sprinkled the film with references to Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. There’s a very obvious connect to Rob Zemeckis’ ‘Contact’ (and no, it’s not the fact that McConaughey stars in both films). And the background score (possibly Zimmer’s best work till date) smartly takes undertones of the Western Classical-laden 2001 and a smidgen of Vangelis’ electronic wizardry in Blade Runner.
Even with all these little hooks and references, Interstellar remains Nolan’s (and Zimmer’s) most original, personal and thought-provoking film.
Set in an apocalyptic earth, where crops are dying, Cooper (McConaughey) is a widower, a retired engineer who now works as a farmer. Almost everyone on earth is being forced to take up farming because there’s no food. Space exploration is now considered a ‘sham’, a propagandist tool that reeks of wastefulness and excess. That irks Cooper.
Cooper gets one final shot at space glory, thanks to Professor Brand (Michael Caine). He is tasked with finding a new home for humans, but that has to come at a terrible cost – Cooper has to leave behind his daughter Murph (the brilliant Mackenzie Foy, and later Jessica Chastain), his son Tom (Timothee Chalamet, followed by Casey Affleck) and father-in-law (the terrific John Lithgow) – he faces the prospect of never seeing them again.
And so, he sets off on a (possibly) one-way journey with acerbic NASA scientist Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), two wise-cracking monolith-like robots (TARS, voiced by Bill Irwin and CASE, voiced by Josh Stewart) and two other NASA scientists Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi).
‘Love is the one thing that transcends time and space’
Here is where we get to see the storytelling genius of Nolan. Normally, you’d expect a director to hold your hand and take you through all the quantum physics and space science. He doesn’t do that though – he keeps it conversational and scientific, even while dealing with five dimensions. And he wows us with enough vistas of space to make us want to put a space suit on (thank you Hoyte Van Hoytema).
Where he does hold the hand of the audience is through the sixth dimension – LOVE. That’s Interstellar’s message, really – it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in a black hole or marvelling at the beauty of a wormhole, the effect of love isn’t relative, it doesn’t slow down or speed up with time. And that’s the beauty of Interstellar (as was the case with Gravity) – in space, you’re never really alone. The ones who love you will always be with you. And that’s why no matter what anyone says around you – always follow your heart.
Nolan has once again shown his complete mastery over the use of time. It’s a treat to watch how he’s edited the film – magical intercuts between Cooper’s time in space and the desolation back on earth remind us almost instantly of Inception – but what this has over Inception is that the emotion holds the science together, rather than being just a by-line of the complex scientific tropes. The pace of the film varies over time – exactly like the theory of relativity – and for me, this is what makes the film a masterpiece. What has to be admired about Nolan is his ambition and vision from a storytelling point of view. And oh yes, do watch it in all its glory on IMAX. It will make you want to put on a space suit and head off straight into space!
This isn’t a perfect movie – far from it, actually. He stretches science fiction to the point that some scenes feel a little incredulous (it makes for heady cinema though). There are complaints of ‘not enough space’ that are emanating from certain quarters (although I disagree). It lacks the – what should I say – ‘vagueness’ that made 2001 such a compelling watch. Almost everything is spelled out in no uncertain terms, so although there are questions at the end (believe me, you will have many) it’s not quite the ‘enigma’ that 2001 was.
But hey, why even compare? Interstellar is today what 2001 was back then. A magnificent spectacle. You may or may not like it, but you cannot ignore it. Watch it. Heck, even take your kids for it. They’ll enjoy the ride!
As it’s said often by Brand during the movie, I’d like to end with a stanza from Dylan Thomas’ poem. It holds true when you’re going to watch Interstellar.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.