In an era where instant gratification is the norm, the forward-planning, patience and dedication of the cast and creative team behind Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (showing at Plymouth Arts Centre from 15-20 August 2014) is nothing short of heroic.
When signing up a to a two-year mobile phone contract seems akin to selling part of your soul, imagine the leap of faith Linklater’s cast must have taken to agree to gather on an annual basis over an extraordinary 12-year period to create the story of Mason from Austin, Texas who ages from six to 18 during the course of the film.
Linklater eschews the usual process in these type of films of casting more than one actor to play the part over time so the movie can be created in the more usual timeframe. My own son is an actor, and has been for plenty of these type of auditions – https://bit.ly/mysteriesofcasting – and the top casting directors are frighteningly good at finding younger versions their lead actors.
But this time-honoured method wouldn’t do for Linklater, he cast the younger roles (including his own daughter Lorelei as Mason’s sister) and they grew up with the film.
Filming began in 2002, when Ellar Coltrane who plays Mason was seven, and finished in September 2013 and as an audience we follow his journey from boy to man – both fictional and actual.
Linklater’s unique approach has produced a film which has been almost universally acclaimed; described variously as “audacious” and “epic”.
It’s long (a not inconsequential 166 minutes) but utterly absorbing and the fascinating production process, a kind of time-lapse video with knobs on, does not overwhelm the simple coming-of-age story at the film’s heart.
“Give me a child at seven and I’ll show you the man” the Jesuits said – thanks to his unswerving desire to tell Mason’s story with every available shred of authenticity I think Linklater can comfortably lay claim to this motto now too.