This is a film I missed when it first came out so managed to catch it at the local art house. I love Richard Linklater’s films – they are firmly art house, and yet so much bigger. This one follows a young boy from childhood to leaving home for college, and was filmed with the same cast over this period, no mean feat in itself, even if he cheated a bit by having his daughter as the other child growing up on screen.
It is also brilliant the way the film flows seamlessly – there is no sign telling us what year it is, everyone just gets older, though perhaps not wiser.
It takes real genius to turn a whole lot of small events into such a revelatory experience; when I emerged I could not believe I had sat through almost 3 hours, and none of the audience had walked out for a break. The main character, Mason’s parents had already split up at the start, so father Mason senior, Ethan Hawke flits in and out of the story while mother Patricia Arquette struggles to be a good single mom, going to college, two more marriages and lots of house moves.
There are some gems of scenes, when Mason senior is trying to get some conversation out of his kids, but then they turn the tables and point out how little he tells them about his own life. We see first loves, school bullying, coping with step dads, drugs and alcohol, till at the end Mason’s mom is planning to downsize, worn out with the expense of a family home, when her kids are off to college. As Mason jun is packing to leave, she breaks down in tears, to the surprise of her son. She had been hoping for some big dramatic moment, when all it means is that the next big event is her retirement.
And that’s where the film really shows its chops. Life is what it is. For most of us, most of the time there are few fireworks, life just goes on. And the soundtrack is brilliant.