Written by | Directed by Richard Linklater
Runtime: 166 minutes
Rating 4.5 /5
Boyhood is the impressive result of a twelve year undertaking by Richard Linklater to shoot a film following a little boy who grows up before our eyes. Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane is a sensitive child of five when we meet him, who is older by a year in each chapter, ending when he is eighteen. Linklater has indeed spent Coltrane’s early life making Mason’s story with the same cast and crew and this marvelous young actor. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play his parents who age along with Coltrane in this fascinating and provocative cinematic event.
Boyhood is not specifically autobiographical or a documentary although many men say it reminds them of their own youth. It is a drama following a fictional boy’s life, within the vessel of the real boy as he grows in reality. Nothing like this has been captured on film, not the 7-Up series which was a documentary shot every seven years over several decades. It is its own brave, jaw dropping self.
Linklater never telegraphs a new segment in time. There are no “Five Months Later” slates or script tip offs. Coltrane/Mason’s radically changing appearance and manner drives it. He just appears in the next shot older. It’s an effective device which is unexpectedly shocking when the changes are stark and sudden. T
There are sharp pangs of sadness when he’s suddenly older when you’re happy where he is, like a mother watching her son grow up but feeling nostalgic for his childhood. So much happens in the film but it’s Coltrane’s changing appearance that ties it together and gives it value.
The most mundane events take on great significance, birthday parties, family excursions, divorces, senior year anxieties as well as the ideas of growing older and separating from ones mother and finding your place. Heightened everyday occurrences make it magic, and we reflect on our own lives. How did we grow up?
Coltrane is on the money, he’s natural and lifelike and casual, as you might be if cameras showed up every year to shoot you. He’s a convincing actor which is a bonus; the gift of talent is an unknown quantity when a child is five. Linklater must have been relieved.
Patricia Arquette is accessible and graceful in her portrayal of Mason’s mother, keeping the character consistent over a dozen years while going through emotional and physical changes. As a woman abused by all three of her husbands, she has a rich story to tell, leavened by her native smarts. Ethan Hawke’s father is an unsavory sort as a young man but over time develops character and faces his responsibilities. He has impulse control problems and so is on the run on every level for most of the film. Our responses to him changes as he does.
The idea of stepping into someone’s life in movies is the root of entertainment and this is as close as it comes. Linklater’s exquisite film is a heartbreaker and it’s joyous but at its heart it’s someone’s life in all its aspects. Thank you Richard Linklater.