(out of 5)
Films exist in time, they occupy that dimension more than they do space, and as such are constantly messing with our conception of it, so that many hours, even years, are pared down to digestible portions that encompass the stories we watch. Richard Linklater has frequently experimented with time on film, his Before series capturing various stages of the relationship between the same two people in three separate entries, the last two of which are played for the most part in real time. With this marvelous and successful venture, he has achieved something even more precious, gathering with the same cast and crew every year for twelve years and filming moments in the growth of a young man (Ellar Coltrane), his big sister (Lorelei Linklater) and their single mom (Patricia Arquette) as they navigate his burgeoning awareness of life with the various challenges that occur at each stage of the game. There’s also a frequently unreliable father (Ethan Hawke) to be factored in, not to mention a few less than appetizing boyfriends that Arquette tries to make a life with as Coltrane’s own experiences with authority, school and girls are part of his painful road to maturity. Even richer than the details of his life, though, are the details of actually seeing someone emotionally go from blissful childhood ignorance to full-grown awareness, with Linklater managing far more than just the gimmick he has so impressively pulled off. It’s actually so well written and performed that the film never even needs to call attention to its impressive stunt, with many of the dramatic set pieces within each period of time achieving the epic intimacy of Desplechin or Fanny And Alexander. Arquette is particularly marvelous in living the life of a woman who just needs to do something good with the few opportunities she has, her final scene a devastating denouement, while Coltrane is magnificently sympathetic as the film’s focus. One for the ages.
Directed by Richard Linklater
Screenplay by Richard Linklater
Production Design by Rodney Becker
Costume Design by Kari Perkins
Film Editing by Sandra Adair