About an hour and a half into Richard Linklater’s memorable new film, my notes say, “This is RIVETING.” Exactly one hour later, as the movie finally ceased (“ended” is too strong, too decisive), I breathed a sigh of relief. What went wrong to turn the movie from startling, luminous journey into boring, platitudinous slog?
Linklater’s movie has gained a lot of press for one of those gimmicks which hide deep meaning under their showy surface, like the delays in Hamlet. Linklater shot the movie over the course of 12 years, so that as Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) grows from age five to freshman year of college, Coltrane grows with him. So does sister Sam and her actress Lorelei Linklater. The device offers a fresh, striking way to show continuity and discontinuity in our lives: No matter how many homes, friends, even family members we shed, our faces are very hard to entirely leave behind.