For those old enough to remember the 1960’s this may remind them of a classic Kodak commercial from those days. A father had sent to Kodak pictures he had taken of his young daughter named Judy. Each year, from the time she was a baby hardly able to walk, until she had children of her own, he had photographed her standing in front of the big front door to their home. The company’s agency took a song called “Turn Around” and played the pictures against it. It showed the value of pictures in a way that touched people’s hearts. In some ways, that’s what Richard Linklater has done in this movie.
He spent twelve years – from 2002 through 2013 — a bit at a time – shooting the life of a young boy (Ellar Coltrane as Mason) growing up before the camera and wrestling with life along the way from boyhood to young adulthood. Because it’s like nothing that has been done before, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. If this had been made before reality programming was so prevalent, it would have been truthfully labeled “brilliant.” As it is, it’s interesting, sometimes entertaining, sometimes slow, sometimes wonderful, but never really “profound.” By focusing on the ordinary days, the movie has little humor, generates few tears, delivers no real tension. The story keeps sagging; it tastes a bit like a left-over meal – nourishing and healthy, but lacking flavor,