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Blunder Years – A Film Review



PLACE: Dendy Civic, Cinema 1

PIC: Boyhood

PEEPS: 3 present in a venue that would take a few hundred


Such is Monday, such is Canberra and such is the problem of long and thoughtful films. Aside from the $%^&ing meerkat, of which I have written previously, the usual short Dendy ads. Expensive menswear*, booze in Fyshwick, a restaurant bar with (apparently) about two customers and slightly smeared glassware, pancakes. sushi, a framing gallery**, a club that supports women in sport. Previews for Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff, routine voyage of self-discovery, small role by Jim Parsons), The Judge (great cast – Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio – in a Grishamish, but written by someone else, thriller about a judge charged with murder, his son the feral criminal defence creature, small towns etc) and Love, Rosie (girl and boy, friends since childhood, I think we all know where this is supposed to go). From which one might deduce that Boyhood is about relationships, possibly also involving alcohol, eating and art***. Well done, Dendy. It’s also about three hours, including pre-show, so sustenance may be required****.

I’m not sure my childhood lasted as long as this movie could have been, and it certainly had fewer highlights. Most people know by now that Boyhood has a bit of a Seven Up riff, with filming with the same cast spread over 12 years*****. Ellar Coltrane, who grows from cute little boy to 16 year old young man, is Mason, younger brother of Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Their parents, who married way too young, are played by Patricia Arquette (Olivia) and Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr). They split and head off on their own trajectories. Both study and work to make the best of difficult lives; Olivia crashes through a tangled series of difficult relationships while Mason Sr gradually turns into the man Olivia thought she was marrying. In the meantime, Samantha and Mason Jr are exposed to emotions and issues that it would probably be best avoided by the young and tender. Their parents compete and conflict over the way the children should behave, the children watch the rawness of hope turning to pain and learn the sorrow of broken promises. Somehow, they make it through the milestones and start to understand those around them and become stronger people, capable of functioning in a world more complex than the generations before (represented by Libby Villari and Richard Andrew Jones outstanding in their small roles).

Boyhood has imperfections, in part due to its episodic structure and lack of a single defining event or resolution. It does not always take the easy way out – there are cues to the passage of time, but they vary and are less obvious than they might be. There is an underlying, and very American, optimism about the capacity to achieve success through hard work that may misunderstand the injustices, rigidities and handicaps inherent in any hierarchical society. For a non-American, studying a map of Texas****** in advance might be advised. Coltrane is solid and confident in his role and Hawke does great things with a talented character who manages to defer everything including adulthood for a time. But it is Arquette who comes through strongest, creating a vivid memory of a good and clever woman trying to find the best way through a life alone. Many will find it hard to watch this engaging actress at times.

Four flat whites, but one of those is just for trying something worthwhile though really hard and doing pretty well at it.



* – it’s one of those success-by-association ads – “Armani, Ted Baker, Hugo Boss, Whoever’s House of Clobber”.

** – amusingly situated near the police station and courts.

*** – there are, however, no meerkats.

**** – before the 11,00 am session, I chowed down on a sausage roll and a pot of tea from the bakery below.  Tastier, if no healthier, than popcorn.

***** – whatever else it may be, this is seriously courageous cinema for that reason if no other.

****** – it’s big and genuinely diverse in geography and population, but it could be difficult to know the significance attached to places that enable them to become shorthand for attitudes.

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