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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Boyhood
Boyhood
IFC Films // R // July 11, 2014
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted July 10, 2014 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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In the grand scheme of things, most films don't take very long to shoot. Writer/director Richard Linklater wants to make for a more authentic coming-of-age feature that allows the audience to grow up with one single character, but in real time. This avoids issues such as casting multiple actors for the same character and old age makeup. 12 years in the making, Linklater strives to craft a touching and genuine picture about growing up and life's experiences. Movies often capture a moment in a person's life where something extraordinary is occurring. In Boyhood, it's all about the small ups and downs that we experience in life over the years, and how we live through them. You can't get more authentic than that.

The journey begins with a 5 year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as his mother (Patricia Arquette) struggles to find her financial footing. She's a single mother raising Mason and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Their biological father (Ethan Hawke) sees them on weekends, as we experience life through the eyes of this young boy. As he continues to reach age 18, we witness everything from the hardships within their family to happy celebrations, such as graduations.

While the majority of pictures follow a structure, Boyhood plays by its own rules. It strives to flow as naturally as time itself by avoiding any strong plot points that will pull you out of the experience. As Mason continues to age, we're never told his current age, nor how much time has passed. Other aspects such as world events and with the use of the soundtrack simply hint you in the right direction. The film is edited so extremely well, to where it rarely misses a beat. Given that this is a three-hour cinematic experience, smooth pacing is absolutely crucial. While we get a feel for who young Mason is, his mother and father are the ones doing the majority of the talking. There are moments when it feels as if this young boy is simply a different point-of-view during these specific years. Many audiences will be able to sympathize with many of his issues, and reminisce about some of the happiest memories of our childhood. I can't think of a single other film that is capable of such things.

As Mason continues to age, the topics naturally become more mature. He has more responsibilities and is discovering who he is through his teenager years. As he begins to find himself, the journey becomes even more about his personal adventure through life, rather than how it fits within his family structure, as he begins to grow more into an individual. He experiences peer pressure from other boys, gets a girlfriend, and finds his passion for the art of photography. However, my one gripe regarding this portion of the motion picture is found within the slightly repetitive melodramatic sequences that simply don't fit into the grand picture. Regardless, Linklater quickly pulls the story right back up on its feet, ready to face the world. Once Mason graduates from high school, he's ready to head out to college. Leaving for a higher education poses its own issues that he must face. Now that he's the last child to leave the nest, Mason is left to explore a new place with different people on his own. It's scary, yet exciting, as we have all made similar transitions in our lifetime. Boyhood is wonderful at relating Mason's journey to the our experiences without it feeling tacky.

Not only does this film follow Mason through over ten years of his life, but it's also a time capsule that grabs ahold of each year through popular entertainment events and more serious world occurrences. This is truly a picture for the times, as it offers a compilation of the years that have passed us by so quickly. While these big moments will most certainly stick out to audiences, the more subtle moments of the years affect us even more. While we primarily remember the larger things that have occurred in our lives, there are so many details that go under the radar. Linklater picks up on these little things and reminds us that so much has happened, and we have all changed as people over time. Not to mention, even the world around us, as well as our interests have changed, making for a developing taste in music, as displayed through the song choices. It can be difficult for a filmmaker to capture a moment, much less twelve years.

Writer/director Richard Linklater has always been excellent at picking the correct actors to portray his roles, and Boyhood is no exception. Ellar Coltrane essentially lived his life out on film, which allowed him to truly open himself up. By the time the picture is over, it feels as if we have actually known him for those twelve years. It's a special thing to say that we got the opportunity to watch him reach adulthood. Some might find it difficult to connect with him on a more personal level, but I simply didn't have that problem. Patricia Arquette plays his mother, who gets a large amount of screen time, since she's such a large part of Mason's life. She truly hits some genuine notes that will cause you to fall under her spell. This is a powerful performance that truly adds to the film's genuine nature, as she delivers one of the most emotionally impactful scenes in the entire picture. Ethan Hawke doesn't get quite as much time as Mason's father, but he is absolutely convincing in this role. Linklater's ability to get the best out of Hawke is absolutely evident here. Coltrane isn't the only one that we get to watch grow up on screen, as Lorelei Linklater plays his sister, Samantha. This is an honest representation that adds another dimension to the family that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

There are few filmmakers who manage to capture character as well as Richard Linklater. This is incredibly evident with features such as Before Midnight and Boyhood. He turned what could have been a chaotic mess into an absorbing cinematic experience that any member of the audience can sympathize with. Each year of Mason's life makes for one chapter that aids in developing him as he reaches adulthood. Not only is this dedicated to Mason's life, but it's also a picture that has been made to perfectly capture the times. It finds the ups and downs in life, as the characters struggle to understand what it all means. Boyhood is the most genuine breed of film that is perfect for the times. Highly recommended!

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