Friday, July 18, 2014
At the beginning of the film, 6-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter) live with their struggling divorced mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette). To make life easier, they have to move to Houston to be close to their grandma and leave their childhood friends behind. That's where their absent father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) comes to visit and to spend some quality time as a father figure.
As time goes by year after year, Mason goes to middle school, then high school, and then goes to college. His baby face becomes stubble cheeks and his inquisitive gaze evolves into opinionated stare. He grows up in front our eyes. The people around him also change over time while the world spins out of control.
The filmmaker Richard Linklater's achievement in this beautiful film is extraordinary and splendid. Through mostly daily routines and seemingly unassuming events, and much talking, he is able to create arresting characters. We get to know them quickly and begin to care about them. We cannot help but to see ourselves reflected in their lives. That's perhaps because these characters are indeed originated from people like you and me, or people we know. It's also because the filmmaker has an observant vision about life and is gifted in capturing it on film.
In many of his other films, including the fantastic "Before Sunrise" (1995), "Before Sunset" (2004), and "Before Midnight" (2013), Richard Linklater is exceptional in writing witty, insightful, and humorous conversations. He certainly repeats that talent in this film as well. No matter what the subject is, such as life in general, or politics, or social media, or music, he often provides his characters with eloquent and even philosophical lines. His superb writing is both enlightening and enchanting.
To film the same group of actors for 12 years in a narrative film is a huge risk and no one has done what Richard Linklater did in this film. We see these characters (and the actors) age for 12 years in less than three hours. It will profoundly affect us because it reminds us how fast lives zip through just like those in the film.
Time flies, indeed. Seize each moment and embrace it like the filmmaker does in this film, and like how the film's each moment seizes us.
Director Richard Linklater will attend three Q&As in San Francisco on opening night (Friday, July 18, 2014) after these shows: