The Time of Our Lives

Richard Linklater's ‘Boyhood’

Writer-director Richard Linklater made a name for himself with a pair of cult films in the early 1990s. Slacker captured the rants and rambles of coffeehouse anarchists, conspiracy theorists, punks, and other emblematic college-town figures culled from Linklater’s hometown of Austin, Texas. Dazed and Confused—a coming-of-age ensemble comedy that followed a bunch of teenagers on the last day of school in 1976—offered a less glossy, de-romanticized American Graffiti. Linklater’s big achievement since then has been the “Before” trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight), chronicling the periodic love affair, over two decades, between an American writer (Ethan Hawke) and the Frenchwoman (Julie Delpy) he meets on a train.

Directors with strong styles can inspire a certain ambivalence. What I resist in Linklater are his sentimental regard for late-adolescent profundity, his indulgence of talk, the obviousness of his themes, and a certain fundamental dramatic shapelessness that can make his films seem underplotted and baggy. What you get in return are soundtracks animated by an exuberant love of rock and roll, sharp insights into the minds and hearts—and language—of young adults, a very closely observed cinematic realism, and, most of all, an abiding obsession with time and its workings. Both Slacker and Dazed...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper is Commonweal's contributing editor.