It’s also hard to say anything much about the movie. If you’ve seen it, it’s already had its impact on you, and if you haven’t seen it then you should know as little as possible about it beforehand, so as to maximize it power.
The only thing I can say is that this movie powerfully proves a rule that was hiding in a “What’s the Matter with Hollywood” post: Innovation Doesn’t Require New Technology. This movie could have been made anytime in the last 100 years by anyone who had the dedication. It was made on the cheap and on the fly, and yet it shatters all of our assumptions about what a film can and should be.
Writer/Director Richard Linklater suddenly remembered, “Oh yeah, all this stuff we do, all these tried-and-true tricks we’ve built up over the years to cleverly simulate life on the screen, we don’t have to do it that way. If we want, we can jettison all that stuff and try something totally different. We can find a new way to powerfully capture the nature of life on screen.”And so he did.
But then he did something that was terrifyingly bold: he waited twelve years to let the rest of the world in on his flash of inspiration. He worked periodically on this movie while also making School of Rock, Before Sunset, Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly, Me and Orson Welles, Bernie, and Before Midnight, never letting on that he also had this other movie brewing totally out of sight.
Note also that none of the movies between Before Sunset and Before Midnight was much of a critical or commercial success, and there was a three year gap in there with no movies at all. Surely he must have felt at times that he was being written off and forgotten, and his last best hope was to simply declare Boyhood to be done and unleash its brilliance upon the world. But no, he would sell no wine before it was time, and he let it continue its slow fermentation, no matter what ups and downs his career might experience in the meantime. That is fierce dedication to art.
The result is a masterpiece, and a reminder that we have barely scratched the surface of what this medium can do, if we stop focusing on post-production innovation and devote more time to pre-production innovation.