Filmed over short periods from 2002 to 2013, Boyhood is a groundbreaking cinematic experience covering 12 years in the life of a family. At the center is Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who with his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), is taken on an emotional and transcendent journey through the years, from childhood to adulthood.
Review by Louise Keller:
There is something quite extraordinary about Richard Linklater's film as it depicts a fictional representation about growing up, family, relationships and life's choices - using real time as its bookmark and calling card. It's like being a fly on the wall and watching 'ordinary' life change in front of our eyes as we become involved with the big things and the minutiae in the world involving a young boy and his family. It's the unpredictable everyday aspect about the endlessly changing nature of life that involves us in this voyeuristic and fascinating tour de force, and as a consequence, we have a stake in what happens to the characters that we get to know so intimately over the 12 years it took to make the film.
When the film begins, we meet six-year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane), an angelic looking boy with smooth skin and generous lips. He seems ordinary enough with perhaps a little more common sense and artistic flair than most kids his age; he gets into the usual scrapes at school, squabbles with his nine year old sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), moves to Houston with his mother (Patricia Arquette) and spends every second weekend with his divorced father (Ethan Hawke). Where is life going to take this young man? And what will happen to his family and their relationships?
The film's magic is in its seamless transitions through the years. Hawke and Arquette (both superb) anchor the story, and although we watch them age on screen, their physical changes are considerably less than that of Mason and Samantha whose journey takes them from child to adulthood. Of course, much of the film's success depends on Ellar Coltrane, with whom Linklater took a huge leap of faith when he selected him 12 years earlier for the role. He doesn't disappoint. Linklater's daughter Lorelei is also excellent as she develops from an extraverted youngster to an individual teen.
Hair styles alert us to time changes - a buzz cut for Mason, red hair for Samantha, short hair for Arquette and facial hair for Hawke. There's domestic violence, cracks in relationships and embarrassing conversations about sex and contraception. There's a boys' camping trip (for father and son), smoking joints, smooching in cars, discovering photography and a pretty girl who makes Mason feel alive. There are disappointments, shocks and surprises and we live through them all. The scene when Arquette contemplates the moment when Mason is about to leave home is one of the most moving - it is one to which many parents will relate as she wonders the essence of that famous Peggy Lee song, 'Is that all there is?'
There are a few time markers along the way - the advent of Harry Potter, Facebook, the Twilight books, the US presidential elections - as well as a wonderful collection of music that colours the reality and changes gears as time shifts, setting us in perpetual motion. But most importantly, it is the change that time brings that allows the narrative to flow to its satisfying conclusion. It's a wonderful, groundbreaking extremely personal work filled with truth about the nature of life, the cards with which we are dealt and the choices we make. The way Linklater pulls it all together and makes it work is amazing. The 165 minute running time simply flies. But it doesn't end there - I couldn't stop thinking about the film for days afterwards.
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CAST: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Elijah Smith, Lorelei Linklater, Steven Chester Prince, Bonnie Cross, Libby Villari
PRODUCER: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
SCRIPT: Richard Linklater
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lee Daniel, Shane F. Kelly
EDITOR: Sandra Adair
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rodney Becker, Gay Studebaker
RUNNING TIME: 165 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 4, 2014 (Advance screenings from August 22, 2014)