Boyhood written and directed by Richard Linklater (IFC Productions, Detour Filmproduction, R, 149 min)
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke.
As a new parent, I’m already concerned with how quickly time passes. Having been thoroughly warned, I’ve spent the last 9 months cherishing every second with my little man—and the milestones fly past at 100 miles per hour. My boy will grow up. And it will happen faster than I will expect.
This principle causes me to resonate deeply with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
Filmed for a week at a time over the course of twelve years, Boyhood tells the coming-of-age story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a six-year old boy who lives with his mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).
In 2002, the family moves to Houston so Olivia can pursue her degree and get a better job to provide for her children. All the while, Mason’s father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) drifts in and out of his children’s lives.
Year after year, the viewer sees the ebb and flow of this family, led by a mother trying her best to provide for her family.
We see a second marriage create a blended family, only to erode with a drunken abusive husband. We see Mason shift from the inquisitive, video-game playing child, to the middle schooler just trying to fit in, to the brooding, high school existentialist.
The Little Things
Plot wise, Boyhood functions as a series of vignettes. Broadly speaking, there aren’t any major conflicts or narrative themes. In fact, Linklater avoids depicting the key touch points kids experience as they grow up. Mason’s first beer, his first girlfriend, his first sexual encounters, his first drugs—all of these scenes materialize off camera.
Instead, Boyhood focuses on the small moments that somehow end up forming us. It’s the embarrassment of a bad haircut; it’s the late-night talk with Dad about the deeper things. In many ways, the film acts as a quasi-documentary depicting a family as it ages.
Now that’s What I Call Music
Intriguingly, the lineament that depicts that passage of time is music. The viewer is not allowed the easy title cards denoting year. Instead, the current songs of the era become the transition for scene to scene and year to year. Coldplay means 2002. Soulja Boy means 2007. The Black Keys means 2010.
Taken together, Boyhood shines at the emotional level. We all grow up. Kids become teenagers. Teens go to college. Twenty-somethings get married. The thirties usher in a new set of children and the cycle continues.
Three Cheers for Ambition
Boyhood earns its acclaim mostly through its groundbreaking premise. Most of us have seen kids grow up on television. Luke, from Modern Family, immediately comes to mind. But, we all see him grow up during thirty-minute installments on a weekly basis over the course of a few years. I’ve never experienced a story where the characters grow up within the scope of three hours. It’s surreal.
With awards season in full swing, set aside some time for Boyhood; it’s a must-see film.
Verdict: 5 out of 5