Boyhood is a drama written and directed by Richard Linklater. Filmed over a 12-year period, Boyhood charts the physical and emotion growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a young boy growing up with divorced parents.
Boyhood is a masterpiece. Hands down. The incredible feat that Richard Linklater achieved in creating this film is astounding, to say the least. After assembling his main cast (Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Jr., Lorelei Linklater as Samantha, Patricia Arquette as Olivia, and Ethan Hawke as Mason, Sr.), Linklater proceeded to film Boyhood on a consecutive basis for 12 years, filming each year for a three to four-day period. This technique is absolutely unheard of, but Linklater makes it work in the most intriguing ways possible. For starters, his script surprisingly flows seamlessly, notwithstanding the movie’s intermittent filming and 165-minute duration. And when I say, “flow,” I do not mean in the way that most great scripts flow because Linklater’s storytelling techniques are far from orthodox. Most Linklater films (especially his Before trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke) seemingly have no plot—he builds his story upon dialogue and commonplace circumstances. Therefore, even though Boyhood seems at times as if it meanders with no distinct end in sight, Linklater is constantly keeping the viewer engaged with events and conversations that everyone can relate to—this is his version of “flow.” Linklater embeds into his film scenes that the average American will understand and connect with—adolescent complexities, familial arguments and fights, and house parties. In these everyday, communicative depictions, Linklater crafts a 3-hour plus film that never has a dull moment—it is masterful filmmaking, and it will forever go down as Linklater’s magnum opus.
The film is titled Boyhood. And boy (no pun intended), does it depict “boyhood” in the most amazing way. In most films, the physical progression of a particular character is usually portrayed via several actors or incredibly intricate makeup/visual effects. In Boyhood, Linklater’s 12-year production supplies a natural development for each of the characters—this is one of the more amazing features of his masterwork. It is incredible to see the film’s lead character Mason progress from an elementary boy with baby fat to a freshman in college with facial hair. During those 12 years, Mason endures all of the customary experiences of childhood, battling divorced parents and witnessing domestic abuse, all the while. This is portrayed with such realism, and the actual physical growth of Ellar Coltrane gives the touch of authenticity that makes the film achieve something picturesque. Speaking of the film’s pragmatism, a film-enthusiast friend of mine (known here only as “DPJ”) described its depiction of “boyhood” perfectly: “the thing Boyhood does exceptionally well is that it hits on all those key points of growing up that all men remember vividly. High points and low. The fact that it took 12 years to make is in my view actually the lesser achievement.” This is absolutely true. The childhood experience of a guy includes so many traditional experiences—playing with friends, talking to girls, going to parties, having your first drink, falling in love for the first time, leaving the nest—and the ways in which Linklater displays those on screen is as matter-of-fact as it gets. Some of my favorite parts of the movie were the cultural signposts throughout the years—Mason goes to a release party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, plays Nintendo Wii, and goes to an Astros game to watch Roger Clemens pitch. These scenes breathe life into Linklater’s remarkable time capsule.
In terms of acting, the theme of physical and emotional progression is further manifested. Ellar Coltrane goes from being a six-year-old with limited acting skills to an 18-year-old with extraordinary abilities. The same can be said for Richard Linklater’s real-life daughter Lorelei (who portrays Mason’s older sister). The key performances, however, came from Mason and Samantha’s divorced parents, played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Ethan Hawke, in my opinion, was only serviceable in his role, but he does execute it quite well (although I do not believe his Oscar nomination is justified). Patricia Arquette is the clear highlight of the film (as I wrote a few days ago), and it is more than evident that the veteran actress delivered a tour de force in her role as Olivia. Boyhood is rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.
Boyhood trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0oX0xiwOv8
Academy Award nominations for Boyhood:
Best Picture (Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, producers)
Best Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke)
Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette)
Best Director (Richard Linklater)
Best Film Editing (Sandra Adair)
Best Original Screenplay (Richard Linklater)
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of 2014:
- Blue Ruin
- American Sniper
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Gone Girl
- The Lego Movie