Even if director Richard Linklater’s Boyhood had turned out to be a poor or mediocre movie, the project would still be recognized as a noble effort. The fact that he has delivered an excellent film is a lucrative payoff for the time and the risk invested in the making of Boyhood.
Boyhood is a genius piece of filmmaking. Linklater and key cast members got together for filming every year for 12 years. We see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow from a small child with a high-pitched voice into a man. And it’s the same actor from start to finish!
That alone would be enough to make Boyhood an interesting curiosity item. The better news is that Linklater tells a compelling story of Mason and his family as they move through those 12 years.
Mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke) are Mason’s divorced parents. As Mason’s life gains focus, so do those of his parents. Mason’s slightly older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) grows up before the audience’s eyes as well. But the central spotlight is on Mason.
As he goes through the stages of boyhood that most males experience, he also does a few things particular to his generation, such as playing modern video game systems and getting a youthful glimpse of internet porn. As he grows into a young man he becomes an accomplished photographer.
When I heard about the project, I’d feared that Boyhood would be shot as if it were a slice of life, in documentary fashion, like many so-called “reality” TV shows. Instead, Boyhood is presented as a traditional movie narrative about the ups and downs of Mason and his family. Honestly, Linklater’s story has plenty of meaningful moments without the manufactured conflicts of a reality show.
Boyhood will certainly be on many 2014 top ten lists. Richard Linklater will likely receive several awards nominations.
But what about Ellar Coltrane? Because inept juvenile actors can derail the best work of moviemakers, mere competence from Stone would be enough to keep the project on track. But he has great screen presence and handles the role masterfully—from early childhood through adolescence into the beginning of adulthood. Those awards organizations that tend to embrace new talent could easily be honoring him at year’s end.
Boyhood is a must-see for serious movie fans. It’s a bit long at 2 hours, 45 minutes, so budget some extra time to enjoy the brilliance of Boyhood.