Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelai Linklater
Very rarely do movies become events that must be experienced by everyone, no matter the age. While wildly ambitious and the subject of LOTS of hype, Richard Linklater's masterpiece is worthy of each and every positive adjective being used to describe it. Innovative in its approach, and heartfelt in every other sense, Boyhood is a rare piece of art that will one day define an era.
Set in the heart of Texas, we first meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a precocious and innocent 5-year old, as he lays in the grass, gazing at the clouds, as Coldplay's "Yellow" sets the tone. Mason is your average little boy: somewhat shy, but highly interested in his surroundings. It's when his older sister (Lorelai Linklater) pesters him with her version of Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again" that we see the first inklings of the nature of the beast we're about to experience. The story is natural because the actors are living these moments, despite everything on screen being part of a script. As Mason progresses through the next 12 years of his life, through losing his innocence, experiencing the awkwardness that is middle and high school, enjoying his first love and trying to understand when that love is lost, we see a boy become a man, literally in front of our eyes. It's the ultimate coming of age story.
Linklater's plan to shoot each summer for twelve years may come across as a ploy at first, but it's actually a clever storytelling device unlike anything I've experienced in a movie. It gives a different life to the story, on top of the smart choice to include subtle pop culture references here and there (the differences in cell phone technology in just the past ten years is interesting). Boyhood ultimately serves as a time capsule for a whole decade of life. For me, personally, the time that passes wasn't too far removed from similar points in my own life. Despite any age difference though, everyone can connect to the joys and trials of growing up. And, it's never been so beautifully explored as it is here.
The story has multiple facets to it. The mother (Patricia Arquette at her best) makes her way through broken marriage after broken marriage, trying to find a better life for herself and her kids. The kids' biological father (Ethan Hawke at his best) is still present in their lives, but fights with what type of role he plays as time goes by. The kids do as kids do. As Mason gets older, we see him develop his own thoughts and feelings. We see him go from wondering if elves are real in a hilarious moment between the father and son, to diving into a philosophical conversation about the way we devote our lives to technology. It's places we've all been before.
There's a great analogy used during one scene where the father is trying to explain why he and the mother split up. He says that even when you love someone you may treat them badly, but it doesn't change the fact that you love them. While, it may not be the best excuse at explaining complex, broken adult relationships to children (although, relationships shouldn't be so hard, right?), it's a great commentary on the idea of perfection and greatness. Mason struggles with wanting to be his own type of person, his own type of perfection, but society doesn't work that way.
I could go on and on about the power behind the images we see on screen, from the short and seemingly filler scenes (like the kids lining up for the latest Harry Potter release), to the dramatic (the dinner scene with the stepfather). I could go on and on giving my own philosophical rant. But, I'm pretty sure even at this point I'm building it up a lot (not that it isn't worthy of the praise). Instead, I'll try to sum it up with this: Boyhood is a unique experience at the movies that I will always cherish.
Rating: R (though it's perfectly acceptable for anyone 10 and up.)
Runtime: 165 minutes