The Closing Night film at True/False 2014 was a work of fiction, but a fiction built around a fascinating collaboration with reality. Filmed over 12 years from 2003-2013, Boyhood depicts a young boy coming of age in 21st century Texas. As we follow Mason through the years, along with his big sister, single mother and unreliable father, we watch the actors grow along with their characters and experience the passage of time through numerous cultural markers. The result is singular and profoundly empathetic.
Director Richard Linklater was recently asked about showing this film at T/F by Scott Tobias of The Dissolve.
The Dissolve: Boyhood screened at the True/False Film Festival, and it seems like the perfect embodiment of that festival’s mission to blur the line between documentary and fiction. How were you looking to balance the demands of narrative with the real developments over time?
Richard Linklater: You know, I wasn’t so sure we should even show [at True/False], because truly there’s nothing about the movie that’s a documentary, yet it feels real. It was meant to feel like a document of time, and it was a collaboration very much with the real world, and what was going on at any given time. It does blur the line in the mind. Someone said if you didn’t see Patricia and Ethan and didn’t know them from other movies, you might almost swear it was real. Some guy in New York the other night, he seemed like a normal guy, but after the movie, as I was leaving, he said, “How did you pick this family?” [Laughs.] I’m like, “They’re actors.” He thought I’d done something like that TV show, An American Family, picked a family and followed them all of these years. I’m like, “Are you crazy?” Anyway [Boyhood] does get blurry, and I wanted it to work that way in the viewer’s head.
This blurriness was examined further by Michael Koresky in his excellent review at Reverse Shot, which notes how Boyhood avoids traditional milestones, thereby playing to the viewer’s own memories of childhood. Star (and T/F 2014 guest) Ellar Coltrane talked with Vulture about growing up in the midst of the film and working each year with Linklater on the film’s scripts, a process which caused him to grow closer and closer to the character he was playing. And James Hughes at Grantland hung-out with Linklater to talk about the film’s roots in his own Texas childhood, and how the filmmaking process was “a dance with an unknown future”. These reflections all speak to the paradox suggested by Manohla Dargis in her NY Times review, who said of Boyhood ”its pleasures are obvious yet mysterious.”