Directed by Richard Linklater
2h 45min, 2014, USA
Rather than present a more structured review, here’s a rambling list of some of my conflicting and very personal responses to Richard Linklater’s well-loved film.
Finally, what pleasures I did get out of this film are purely formal, since there’s not much style to talk about. (The film, for the most part, looks like unedited footage from a scouting weekend or rehearsals. I guess that was a deliberate formal choice; I didn’t find it compelling.) I loved the little jolt I got as soon I realized that time had moved on in the film without any sort of transition, and I had to re-orient myself and my sense of the characters. I was constantly asking, Who are these people? And: What are they doing now? That seems to me a significant achievement, and maybe an interesting comment on how humans behave, trying out new identities, tactics, and strategies to fit their situations, and that personal continuity is an illusion.
Without understanding that, Mason’s final “insight” — It’s always right now, ya know? — would be as dumb as it sounds. Without Ellar Coltrane’s brief and amused look into the camera lens in the film’s final seconds, I might have written the whole thing off.
Beyond the easy references to existentialism that critics always bring up, maybe that’s what Linklater has been getting at in every movie of his. That’s certainly the crucial point of Waking Life, a movie that works better if you don’t listen closely, or… at all.
But there’s nothing cynical about recognizing humanity’s ability to reconfigure itself on the fly, which is why, up until Before Midnight, I’ve been a fan. Just not so much of this particular boy and this particular boyhood.