Is ‘Boyhood’ just another concept?

A few years back, I remember being shocked at the opening of London’s first ‘concept restaurant’, Dans Le Noir. In this ‘avant garde’ establishment, customers are forced to eat, drink and converse in complete darkness. The owner’s justification: that the restriction of a human’s sight would cause the experiences aroused by the other senses to intensify. This seems like a perfectly logical conclusion to draw. After all, who wouldn’t feel an intensified sense of irritation after blindly slopping puréed quinoa over their face?

It was with this cynicism for all things ‘concept’ that I sat down to watch Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s ‘concept film’ that relates the story of six-year-old Manson (Ellar Coltrane) growing up over twelve years by (you guessed it!) filming the cast over twelve years as well.

Rather surprisingly, Linklater’s original technique pays off. Not, as most aficionadas claim, because he manages to capture the respective characters’ changing physical appearance over time – something that can easily be achieved with makeup and a wig. No, what makes his approach so gratifying is its portrayal of the evolution of populist trends throughout Boyhood’s twelve-year production. Although the film’s historical astuteness is equally evident in its depiction of fashion, technology and slang, it is made most clear with the chronological nature of Boyhood’s soundtrack. The film kicks off with Coldplay’s 2000 hit ‘Yellow’, before we are transported through the 2000’s with help of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ (2006), Vampire Weekend’s ‘One’ (2008) and Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ (2011). This film does not just recount the coming-of-age story of Manson Evans Jr., but of a generation.

Despite the novel way in which the film was compiled, Linklater’s creative genius alone guarantees Boyhood’s Oscar-worthy status. While the film’s dialogue appears unremarkable, Linklater’s ability to create a multidimensional character, and then add another dimension to it, is superb. This is most noticeable with Mason’s stereotypical haven’t-seen-his-kids-in-years-because-he-ran-off-to-Alaska Dad (Ethan Hawke); a man who uses a Sarah Palin analogy to explain the importance of contraception to his kids. Naturally.

It is pretty clear that with his new approach to Boyhood, Linklater has shed light on something extremely interesting. Alas, if only Dans Le Noir could do the same…

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