Movie Review: Boyhood

In creating the movie Boyhood, writer/director Linklater somehow transforms the viewer into his or her own passages of time.

boyhood.ellarmasterSteven Rea, the Philadelphia Inquirer film critic wrote of the film Boyhood, “Is it dumb to say, ‘Wow?'” I don’t care. Wow.” I’ll buy that.

From IMDB: “Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha…” This project was somehow completed, more or less, secretly.

So it is a visionary CONCEPT of a movie, a brilliant stunt, filming a few days every year for a dozen years, in the life of a boy and his family. So many things could have gone wrong.

Over more than a decade, an actor could have died or decided not to continue to participate. Linklater had gotten Hawke to agree to direct the rest of the film if HE died. On the Daily Show, Linklater told Jon Stewart that he agreed to allow his daughter to costar because he figured he’d always know where she was.

But what’s amazing is how well it works as a narrative, even though it often tends to note the day-to-day experiences of growing up. There are no on-screen titles or chapter breaks signifying “next year,” but are woven together like a quilt with slightly different colored material, a function of film editor Sandra Adair; give her the Oscar now.

Olivia, the Mom, holds the family intact, in spite of choices that don’t always work out. The sibling rivalry, particularly in the early years, was credible. The Dad, who’s not living with the family, is trying to find ways to be there for his kids, the way non-custodial parents often do, to the irritation of the primary caregiver. Both child actors went through that awkward-looking stage, as adolescents do.

One of my favorite scenes involves Mason Sr. and Mason Jr. in a vehicle, discussing the disposition of the father’s previous car. Totally different perceptions of a conversation that took place seven years earlier, and totally believable.

In creating this movie, writer/director Linklater somehow transforms the viewer into his or her own passages of time. I think that when the specifics of a narrative resonates, it becomes universal. As people come and out of the core family’s lives, you wonder what happened to them, as we do in real life. You CARE about these people.

The only thing I can even remotely compare this to is the amazing Seven-Up series that records seven-year-olds, then catches up with them every seven years. But that is currently eight non-fiction films.

A great soundtrack also helps this film along. Oh, another piece of dialogue I especially loved involved the father giving the son a mixed two-disc CD.

Eh, just go see it, like The Wife and I did at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany last week. Visit the loo first, because it’s 165 minutes long. Rated R, mostly for language and alcohol/drug use, I’d be inclined to let the Daughter see it in a couple of years.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Movie Review: Boyhood”

  1. Roger, I’m so glad someone wrote about this film. Linklater is some kind of genius – not only because of the concept, but in picking and re-collecting an amazing set of actors every few years.

    Sure, the daughter is Linklater’s daughter (I think), but she is a fine actress, perfect for the shrugging of the shoulders teen and the older-but-wiser big sister when her brother gets out on his own.

    I know the ending will never last, but that’s part of the bittersweetness of the entire film. My heart broke for Patricia Arquette with her empty nest speech, then I reflected. Hell, I’m her age, and I have not given up on anything, any possibility, any horizon.

    We were SO impressed, told all our friends. Wondering if word of mouth will get it out of the art-house circuit. WOW. Yeah. Amy

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