The independent-film world is known for its sprawling, epic projects -- Michael Apted's "Up" series, or the entire editing session of "The Tree of Life." That's the spirit Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" seeks to capture, and then some.
The indie auteur's new film, "Boyhood," is the culmination of 12 years of shooting; indeed, for years, it was simply called the "12-Year Project." And on Sunday, Jan. 19, it will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, marking one of the most unusual debuts in recent memory.
"Boyhood" is a scripted movie about family and childrearing. It stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette and a 7-year-old named Ellar Coltrane — well, he was 7 when filming began, but over the course of the movie, aged into adolescence and beyond, such that by the end he'll actually be heading off to colleg
Linklater and the cast would take a few weeks each year to shoot the movie, essentially filming another chapter in the fictional family's life, so that you're watching a child (and his parents) grow up before your eyes. And you're watching it naturally, not with the swap-in-older-actors, film-it-all-in-six-weeks compressed approach of most movies about family.
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Of course, in the process, you're watching the filmmakers change too. Indeed, whenever we talked with Linklater about it in the last few years, he had a slow-but-steady tone, as if to say, well, we're keeping on, but it may turn out very differently than how it began, because we're very different than how we were when it began.
In some ways, "Boyhood" resembles Linklater and Hawke's "Before" series, though with that one we watched it over a span of two decades, checking, in a way, our own evolution as we went. This experiment can be viewed in one sitting, 12 years of maturation in one concentrated cinematic experience.
The third film in the "Before" series, "Before Midnight," premiered on the same Sunday at Sundance last year. If "Boyhood" is even remotely as compelling as that series -- or as it sounds -- we could be in for something utterly fascinating.