UK Release Date: 11th July 2014
Runtime: 166 minutes
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Synopsis: The life of a young boy, from the age of six to 18, is condensed into the space of three hours as we visit him at key times in his life.
Every now and then, a film comes along that does something really special with the format. Dazed & Confused director Richard Linklater’s twelve year labour Boyhood is a prime example. Shot in brief periods over the course of more than a decade, it tracks the central character and those around him as he goes through the tumultuous process of growing up.
To put it mildly, it’s a little bit brilliant.
Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) live with their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), who is divorced from their musician father Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke). As Mason grows up, he encounters Olivia’s multiple husbands, struggles with the turmoil of relationships and attempts to find his own personal identity.
Boyhood is a sublimely effective musing on the brevity and mundanity of human existence. Linklater resists the temptation to visit Mason at the milestone events in his life, preferring to flit in and out on painfully ordinary days. He is not reflecting Hollywood; he’s reflecting humanity. Life isn’t a series of milestones strung together, it’s a succession of humdrum, unremarkable days.
| "I just thought there’d be more… you know?"
In this era of spectacle over substance and reliance on CGI, Boyhood is refreshing in that it simply points a camera at people and lets them live. The lengthy relationship between the central performers gives the film an organic feel that cannot be replicated on a traditional production schedule.
Ellar Coltrane is a brilliant discovery. He visibly grows in on-screen confidence as the film continues, which helps to provide his character with an arc despite the lack of a traditional plot. Boyhood is the story of Mason’s development from a vulnerable boy into a man who knows exactly who he is.
Despite Coltrane’s excellent work, Patricia Arquette is perhaps the true star of the movie. Her performance is tortured and conflicted throughout as she watches her son develop whilst her own life twists and contorts in a variety of painful directions. The final scene between her and Mason as she ushers him off to college, contemplating her own loneliness and eventual mortality, is utterly heart-breaking.
| "You don’t want the bumpers. Life doesn’t give you bumpers."
It’s rare that a film can run for the best part of three hours and remain consistently engaging. Boyhood could’ve run even longer and it would still be fascinating. Linklater’s dedication and hard work has produced something that, hyperbole aside, is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Pop or Poop?
Boyhood is a rare example of a film that completely diverts from the conventional way of making a feature film. In doing so, it becomes something hugely important.
It’s more than just great performances and excellent storytelling, Boyhood distils the entire formative human experience into a cinematic form.
And that shows just how fragile and brief life is.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.