It sounds funny to talk about ‘formative films’, but when it comes to directors, Richard Linklater is certainly a person whose work impacted me early on in my childhood. I remember being a young and impressionable 14-year-old, watching Boyhood for the first time and being completely starstruck by Linklater’s incredible idea to film the same cast for 12 years. The idea was so simple, and yet brilliantly executed. I remember wondering in awe about how someone could have such a level of charisma that they could motivate a cast to stick out a project for a whole twelve years!

The film depicts the childhood and adolescence of Mason Evans from ages six to eighteen as he grows up in Texas with divorced parents. It tracks first loves, road trips, camping weekends, graduation, and other important milestones. Even after watching this film dozens of times, I am still so captivated by the film’s unintrusive depiction of relationships, the joys and pitfalls of growing up, and the intricacies and complexities of a difficult family life. It feels very much like a dream sequence as the plot progresses freely and seamlessly with every year that we jump forward. I was amazed to find out that Linklater began filming without a completed script, and that he was keen to have input from the actors; an admirable approach to film as a collaborative art and one that was later rewarding when the cast’s perspectives came across clearly in the film.

As someone who loves documenting life – be that through photography, film, painting, or writing – I absolutely love how Linklater manages to effortlessly craft stories that don’t have the most dramatic plotlines, but hold human relationships, growing up, and going through the ebbs and flows of life at their centre. Boyhood made me more sensitive to these stand-out moments in my own life -not even necessarily the typical ‘milestones’ – but really the stuff that happens in the background and shapes these moments like songs, political movements, and phrases we associate with different periods in our lives.

After becoming hooked on this concept of tracking people in Boyhood, I had to delve deeper into some of Linklater’s other works. Also starring Ethan Hawke, The Before Trilogy consists of three beautiful romance films: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. The films depict the relationship between Céline and Jesse at 3 periods of their lives. Each of the films were made nine years apart and are heavily focused on conversations between the characters, exploring the passage of time, ageing, and changing. The trilogy feels incredibly intimate, with each film offering a snapshot of a moment in time in the characters’ lives. The film is characteristic of narrative realism, focusing on everyday life and ordinary experiences, and it is this unembellished depiction that gives the audience a strong feeling of comfort, making us feel like we’re bystanders to their conversations. I guess what I love so much about this film is that it centres around “love”: its spontaneity, its unpredictability, its power. But it stays authentic, and shows the other, more awkward, dysfunctional sides of love, all the while staying grounded and authentic in how it captures this. 

If you haven’t seen Boyhood already, I strongly recommend that you watch it as soon as you can (the last time I checked it was on Amazon Prime!). It is beautifully introspective, and I feel that it has made me appreciate how a good film doesn’t require a dramatic plot line, a rigid script, or a high budget; a good film can begin with a loose idea and, just like life, it can be adapted in a ‘go with the flow’, ‘see what happens’ kind of way.

Linklater still remains my biggest inspiration in the world of film, and I hope that you too will come to love him as much as I do!