DRAMA; 2hr 46min
STARRING: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Fatherhood: Coltrane and Hawke
Epic is an almighty word. But movies surely don’t come any more wide-ranging than a boy’s life from age 6 to 18, filmed in actual, incremental time between 2002 and 2013. Mason (Coltrane) is that boy, Arquette is his battler mother, Olivia, Hawke is his mile-a-minute maverick dad, Mason Sr, and Lorelei Linklater — writer-director Richard Linklater’s daughter — is his older sister, Samantha.
With their folks divorced, Mason and Sam’s lives can be rocky. Olivia and Mason Sr are good people who love their children and do their best. But there are inevitable squalls, which the kids ride out with each other as ballast.
Over 166 minutes (!), Linklater sees Olivia through other, testing relationships and a new, hard-forged direction as a teacher. Mason Sr straightens out into a second family, and Mason and Sam evolve into clear-eyed teenagers. The classically Linklaterish feel is seamlessly relaxed and so generously proportioned that the characters — who don’t feel like characters at all, so fly-on-wall is the docu-style vibe — have ample space in which to expand. It’s intensely moving to see Mason slouch into artistic adolescence: bidding him goodbye, we, too, feel a part of this encompassing microcosm of family.