With Boyhood, Richard Linklater delivers something so much more than just an impressive feat in experimental filmmaking. The Dazed and Confused and Bernie director achieves what so many other storytellers have painstakingly sought after and never come close to accomplishing.
Linklater’s latest finished product isn’t exactly his latest started product. The incredibly transcendent Boyhood was shot over 12 years, let me repeat that, 12 YEARS! It follows a broken family from Texas and centers on a young boy named Mason, played all the way by Ellar Coltrane, whom we follow from Grade One to his graduation after Twelfth Grade. About 3 days a year were shot in the 39 day total shoot, and by the end of viewing the almost three hour film, you realize you’ve been privy to something that has never been attempted on screen before and something that wholeheartedly succeeds.
Linklater’s usual thematic focus on time and its effects has never been more prevalent than in Boyhood. We literally get to see Mason and/or Ellar grow up before our eyes. Never before have I seen the spectrum of the family life shown so clearly. The understated and unpretentious Linklater keeps the fat that most films would trim to the floor, but what is kept here shows off what really are those little moments that make up life, and the people you spend it with growing up.
The film opens with Mason saying goodbye to his friends as he, his sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei), and mother Olivia drive off to Houston so she can go back to school. Mason and Samantha’s father Mason Sr. (charmingly played by Linklater veteran Ethan Hawke) is the weekend cool dad who isn’t quite ready to give up the guitar and the prized muscle car. As the years go by, we see the inevitable compromise that is life as Mason Sr.’s priorities change to focus more on family, while it takes Olivia a few more husbands who have a love for the drink. Props to Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke for committing to such a grandiose project.
We watch the inevitable ups and the downs, and we really come to love and care for this family, especially Mason, whom, and I can’t give a bigger compliment to Linklater, we feel like a parent to, as we want nothing but the best for him. When Mason triumphs we cheer and when Mason goes through his slacker apathetic teen years we get frustrated and want to give him a kick in the butt.
Boyhood is a special film that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Take a Drink: for every separate age Mason is shown at.
Take a Drink: when a husband of Olivia’s has a drink.
Take a Drink: whenever a popular song plays to showcase when the film takes place.
Down a Shot: when Mason comes home a little drunk.