The uneasy truths4 min read . Updated: 18 Nov 2014, 11:18 AM IST
The pain of growing up as a boy in Richard Linklater's magnum opus 'Boyhood' and Broadway actor Martin Moran's two playsboth in India this weekend
When Richard Linklater’s Slacker came out in 1991, he seemed so effective as a voice of that generation, a quasi-intellectual generation in permanent transition, that it was difficult to look beyond the generational prism in his later films. In his new film Boyhood, filmed over 12 years with the same cast—Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette in the lead—he transcends the generational drift. It is set in the last decade, but the social canvas and collective voice of his milieu fade into the background—the axis being the story of a boy named Mason.
We see Mason from the age of 6 to his 20s, when he joins college and is convinced he need not seize the moment because “the moment seizes us". Coltrane ages through the film, and in the changing body and mind, Linklater intends us to spot the boy we have left behind, remember his fragility and stupidity as he survived one childhood or adolescent crisis after another, and understand him as an adult.
Nothing monumentally conflicting happens in Boyhood. The conflict is in Mason’s head, as he tries to grapple with his life with Olivia, his mother (Arquette), who marries three men, while graduating from college and becoming a professor, and the occasionally revealing visits from his father (Hawke), an Obama supporter and musician. His sister Samantha grows from a bully to a red-haired recluse. The family sustains its soul, fighting and celebrating together every now and then. Meanwhile, Mason nurtures his wounds with a straight face, coming to terms with his sexuality, with drugs, teenage troubles and adulthood’s demands, all the while forming his own world view—cynical of the social networking age, but not embittered by it, never a rebel, yet not inclined to go with the flow. Linklater’s achievement is in making that transformation believable and easy to relate to.
As the film’s template demands, the performances are the epitome of realistic acting. It helps of course that all the actors physically change through the filming—the gradual swell of Olivia’s belly, the slow breaking of Mason’s voice.
Boyhood spans around 3 hours, and has all the ingredients of an epic about domesticity and growing up, but without a tragedy’s hubris and dramatic reversal of fortune. The drama is life as it is, and the hero is the boy who survived it.
By Sanjukta Sharma
The Tricky Part; All the Rage
When Broadway actor Martin Moran released his autobiographical book The Tricky Part around 10 years ago, it created ripples for at least two reasons. First, because the book takes on with candour a difficult subject: child sexual abuse. Moran was 12 years old when he had a “relationship" with a Catholic boys’ camp counsellor in the US—the sexual abuse continued for three years. Second, because Moran refused to paint this experience in black and white. “Human life is absurd and funny at once. I am interested in bringing out the complexity," he says.
The Tricky Part was adapted for the stage even before the book launched, and director Seth Barrish stuck by Moran’s “light touch" in dealing with the subject.
Moran is now on his first tour in India, where he will perform two plays based on his attempts to make sense of what happened to him all those years ago—The Tricky Part and All the Rage. The latter explores whether he should feel angry about what happened, as well as ideas of forgiveness. Both plays are solo performances, in what Moran describes as “direct address storytelling" format.
To Moran, humour is a key element of the plays—it helps to disarm the audience. The laughter might just make it easier, Moran hopes, to start a dialogue on child sexual abuse as well as the rape of boys that often goes unreported. “I do sense how difficult it is in this culture to speak about this," says Moran, who is on the board of 1in6.org, a global support group for victims of childhood abuse.
The light touch and strain of humour that Moran works into the telling of the experience set the plays apart. Moran is clear he does not want the plays to be a “harangue or a radical screaming". They tell the story of a boy to whom terrible things happened, as they unfortunately do to many boys across the globe. The plays had to be a spark to set off a dialogue on a subject that is uncomfortable for most, and often brushed under the carpet.
After 11 years of performing the play, Moran says he feels he owns the story less. “It has slipped through the cracks. By being so intensely personal, it has become universal," he says. It’s the story of anyone who has faced, or is facing, child sexual abuse. It’s an open invitation to everyone to talk about it.
By Chanpreet Khurana
Boyhood released in theatres on Friday. The Tricky Part and All The Rage will be staged on 15 and 16 November, respectively, at 7pm at India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi. Tickets, ₹ 350 and ₹ 500, available at the venue and on in.bookmyshow.com