IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Directed By – Richard Linklater
Starring – Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, and Zoe Graham
The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.
**WARNING – CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS AND SLIGHT SPOILERS**
I usually hate doing this, but I’m going to talk about what happens in this film a little bit. The film hit me on such an emotional level that I can’t not reference events. I’ll try to keep them as cloudy as I can.
What can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said. As of now it is sitting with a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and should go down as one of the best reviewed films of all time. The story of a young boy growing up before out very eyes is a a concept that doesn’t seem extraordinary enough on paper, but when you see it with your own eyes is a revelation in film. I was lucky enough to attend a screening at the IFC Center in New York City that had an intro from Linklater and Coltrane. They were humble and only talked briefly but what was the best part about it was seeing Ellar Coltrane as he is today, a 20 year old kid. The film started and all of a sudden he was five years old. It was like watching a home movie except what I didn’t expect was that I, like many, would find the nostalgia and deep seeded memory of my own life almost overbearing, as if somebody had opened a window and let my childhood out to play on the screen. Let’s dive into this thing.
Let me first say that the opening and closing shots of this film are just perfect. We open up on Mason peering into the sky. Right from the beginning, Linklater portrays Mason as an intellectual who is trying to find his place in the world. It’s a theme that will be played out heavily through the course of the nearly three hour run time. Trying to remember the times when your age consisted of a single digit is hard. For most of us, that was almost two decades ago, but for me, here comes this film that almost completely made me remember and almost get emotional about seeing my childhood on a screen. Riding bikes around, exploring the forests, looking at Victoria’s Secret, playing Oregon Trail in school when I’m supposed to be working. It was amazing seeing all these little details about growing up that you just don’t remember right away. You remember the big things of course. You remember when your voice started to change or when you had confrontations with other kids. You remember your first girlfriend and how disgusting the idea of the member of the opposite sex was. You remember moving away from your best friend, or in my case having your best friend move away from you. You remember having sleepovers where you and your buddy stayed up all night and watched all three Star Wars movies but falling asleep halfway through Return of the Jedi. You remember the fights your parents would have as they to grew up with you. I was just thinking this, but in a couple years I’m going to be the same age as my father was when he was born. I haven’t figured anything out in my life yet and this guy was having a kid. It’s something that made this film more than about a boy growing up before your eyes. It was about a family growing up with him.
Mason has an older sister by I believe two years and a mother and father who are divorced. Sam, played by Lorelei Linklater, is a typical older sister, sarcastic but still loving. Her opening scene was hysterical. At first Mason’s father, played perfectly by Ethan Hawke, is never really around. It’s only when he really starts to see his kids growing up that he decides to move back closer to him. He, along with his son Mason, is trying to find his place on this planet. He’s an aspiring musician who occasionally has a job, but I never for a second considered him to be a deadbeat. The love he showed for his children oozed out from him every time he was on screen, He gave advice when he could and tried to teach them lessons, especially Mason. Patricia Arquette plays the mother and in a way, this is also her story. She goes through a wave of good and bad decisions that seem to plague everybody in their lives. She’s raising two kids pretty much on her own and while she has relationships along the way, you never really feel like the three of them fit anywhere other than each other. By the end of the film you see this woman who has made so many choices in her life, good and bad, and she still wanted more. It’s a line in a film I’ll never forget. “I wish there was more”.
I connected with so much in this film. My brother, who is younger, would constantly be the bearer of my torture. I remember those long car rides where the urge to fight one another was so overwhelming that a “barrier” had to be placed in between us so we didn’t kill each other. Mason in high school was almost a direct representation of me. I went through the phase of wearing studded belts, band tee shirts, wristbands and long hair. I was feeling my way through my interests with photography and writing. I would bring my books to school to read when we had free time before the end of class. I was awkward but sociable with girls. There was a scene where Mason and his friends go “camping” at a friends house with his older brother. The conversation they had COMPLETELY nailed the conversations you have about beer and getting laid. Everybody had a girlfriend they slept with in summer camp or the place they used to live in. Everybody. I denied the offer of a beer, not because I’ve never had a beer before and was afraid of making that step in my life and what my parents would think of me, but rather because I didn’t want a beer. Those awkward years of trying to figure out what is wrong and what is right seemed like torture, but I’ll be damned if I would deny the chance to try again. The feeling of self discovery is such a rare thing for me nowadays that having a couple years where it happens every weekend would be amazing and terrifying at the same time.
The relationships. Oh man the relationships. It’s hard when you haven’t figured yourself out and yet you’re trying to make it work with another person. I’ve been going through this pretty hardcore recently. I’m 25 but I honestly don’t feel it. I feel like I’ve hit a major crossroad in my life where all those exciting self discovery moments have disappeared and I’m left waiting by the door waiting for them to come. I’ll get visitors to this door. Friends, family, and an amazing girl who seem to want me to come with them, out of the doorway, and into a place of happiness and growth, but I’m still left waiting at the door for a sense of inspiration that just isn’t coming. This film reminded me of who I used to be. I used to be the kid that was into photography and reading. I have read maybe two books in the last two years. I have tried to get back into art. I bought a paint set that has been sitting at the foot of my bed for three weeks now untouched. I’m even having trouble sitting down and watching films all the way through. It’s something I’m having a tough time with. In the end though, I know it’s going to work out. I know that I’m going to find an exit to this state I’m in. I’m going to get out of that doorway and experience my life as it comes to me with the people I love and care about.
THAT is what this film is about.
This film is about stages in your life, the great, the horrible, and maintaining a constant forward motion and coming out ahead. This film is about the people you meet who inspire you to be better. This film is about the people you meet who inspire you to never be like them. It’s about finding your way through this brief time on earth with the people you chose to take with you. You’re going to leave people behind, it’s a fact. Those people will either have left you with a lump of shit or a new way of looking at the world. I’m still trying to figure myself out. I have a lot of regrets. Mason had a lot of regrets. His mother had regrets, His father had regrets. They all figured it out by the end of this film though. Linklater didn’t just throw a happy ending at us. He threw a glimpse into the lives of four people who intertwined themselves with others, the good and the bad, and still came out the other side looking forward. By the end of the film I was thinking the same thing that Mason’s mother was thinking as she watched her son go off to college, “I wish there was more”. I wish there was more.