Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a cinematic experience like no other. 12 years in the making, it is the culmination of a dozen summers’ worth of collaborations with star Ellar Coltrane. The result is a fascinating examination of childhood, adolescence, and family, and is perhaps the most honest portrayal of growing up in the history of cinema.
Filming began in 2002, in Linklater’s hometown of Houston, TX. Coltrane was only 6 years old when he was cast as Mason, and through the course of the film we see him gradually change from a sweet young boy into a complex young man. It is a transformative journey and the audience accompanies him throughout, experiencing firsthand the ups and downs of the ever-changing world around him. People come and go, the scenery changes, and everything is met with a profound sense of discovery.
The 12 parts blend together seamlessly. Physical characteristics and haircuts mark the changes in time, and it is a credit to Linklater that the film sports a consistent look and tone throughout. The filmmaking isn’t flashy, but is deftly-handled and lets the performances shine. Boyhood is the kind of movie that doesn’t explain things to the audience through dialogue. Instead, it allows them to be experienced through the eyes of the protagonist, without judgment. There is no overly-dramatic music leading you to feel a certain way, and essentially no obvious plot to push the story forward. Instead, the proceedings unfold naturally and it feels like real life.
All of the acting is solid. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s estranged parents, and Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, plays Mason’s older sister. All of the characters feel real and the actors do a tremendous job of bringing them to life intermittently for over a decade. There’s an authenticity to watching them age naturally that just can’t be matched by makeup or effects.
The 166 minute runtime never felt long and the packed audience seemed to enjoy it, laughing along and applauding at the end. I’m sure there were some tears shed as well. It is a film that nearly everyone can identify with, but those seeking the thrills and spectacle of Hollywood need not apply. This is a gloriously human piece of non-traditional filmmaking.
Over the last 20+ years, Linklater has quietly become one of the more unique voices in modern cinema, putting out diverse films such as Slacker, Dazed and Confused, rotoscope films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock, Bernie, Me and Orson Welles, and the critically acclaimed but still underrated “Before” Trilogy (Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Before Midnight). He probably has a long career ahead of him, and when it is all said and done, it won’t surprise me if Boyhood is hailed as his crowning achievement. It is the quintessential coming of age movie, epic in scope and beautifully executed.
5 out 5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
Boyhood opens nationwide Friday, July 18
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