One of the most critically acclaimed films of the year is Richard Linklater’s poignant coming of age drama Boyhood.
The film stars Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans Sr., Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans, Lorelei Linklater as Samantha Evans and the boy himself Ellar Coltrane as Mason Evans Jr. What charmed an audience was that over the span of twelve years the cast reunited once a year to shoot scenes, which allowed you to literally watch Mason Jr. grow up right before your eyes.
Linklater is truly a gem in the world of cinema. He captures life in its entirety without having to add flashy or over the top story plots that are far from reality. Boyhood is yet another testament to Linklater’s work and with the film becoming a front-runner heading into the 87th Academy Awards, it seems only natural to look back at some of Linklater’s notable works that came before Boyhood, which highlight cultural issues and have made a lasting impact in cinematic history.
One of Linklater’s most influential classics played a prominent role for the twentysomethings youth in the 1990s. That film was Slacker. Slacker refers to Generation X, which described the Post-World War II baby boom generation, the generation that embraced diversity of race, class and sexual orientation. Linklater does something very different in this film. There’s no story plot or car explosions not even a love story. It’s simply a film that follows various individuals who were part of that Gen X group around a campus town in Austin, Texas. Those who denied the consumer culture and saw the countless flaws with corporate America. Linklater captured the essence of this generation by listening to the marginalized youth who didn’t define themselves with the type of job they had and created a platform for them to speak up. Although Slacker was released in the early 90s, it’s completely transcendent today.
Dazed & Confused
Dazed & Confused is a coming of age cult classic. Set in 1976, it chronicles the students’ last day at a suburban high school in Austin, Texas. Just like many of Linklater’s other films, Dazed & Confused is pure dialog. The film doesn’t romanticize the magnificent high school years. Instead, it looks at high school in its reality that in fact it’s the most excruciating, awkward and many times, an uneventful four years of our lives. Teachers are strict authoritative figures, the parents are too busy with their own lives to keep up and the students are lost with their own identities and struggle to find their way in a complex world.
Another one of Linklater’s enchanting films is Before Sunrise. It’s not your average tale of boy meets girl. Ethan Hawke plays Jesse, a young American travelling to Vienna to catch the next flight home back to the US and meets Céline, a young French student played by Julie Deply. When Jesse asks Céline to hop off the train and spend the rest of the day with Jesse, the two embark on a journey of pure conversation. Very little happens. They talk about love, death, divorce among other societal issues. Céline is supposed to be the romantic while Jesse plays the cynic, however later on the film reveals the roles are actually reversed. This tale is about the yearning of finding a partner that understands your world even though the world outside yours is very complex. The ending leaves the two separating with a promise to meet 6 months later. If you followed the conventions of a traditional romance film, they reunited and lived happily ever after…
It’s very rare for a film to create a sequel that’s just as good as the first however Linklater achieved to do it. The film picks up nine years after Jesse and Céline met on the train in Vienna. Jesse is a published author who travels to Paris for a book tour in hopes to find Céline. When the two reunite, you find out they never met up the six months after they first met as promised. Instead of creating an enormous spectacle as to why Céline didn’t make it, Linklater points out that life simply got in the way, just like it always does. Jesse’s married and has a son while Céline is in a long distance relationship with a photojournalist. Both characters are noticeably unsatisfied with the way their life turned out. The constant questioning of ‘what if’ plays a prominent theme throughout the film. What if Céline’s grandmother hadn’t passed away? What if Celine and Jesse ended up together? Would they be happier today? This constant wonder of ‘what if’ seems all too familiar. Are we ever fully satisfied with what we’re given? Or will there always be that wonder of what life could’ve been like had we chosen a different path.
Before Boyhood – Looking Back at Richard Linklater article by Bojana Duric