Movie Review: Boyhood

Declan Hoffman, Features Editor

Maybe one of the most original works of the century thus far, Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater, powerfully conveys a young boy’s journey through some of the most meaningful years of his life using the same cast over 12 years to capture his raw experience in a stunningly simplistic way that runs together to create a laid back, discrete pace.

The film opens with the story’s center, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), pondering on his front lawn where he lives with his mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and younger sister, Sam (Lorelei Linklater). Olivia moves the family to Houston so she can go to school in hopes of a better life for her children. After marrying her psychology professor who ends up being an abusive alcoholic, she toughs out a few more months of mistreatment in time to finish her degree, after which she quickly escapes with her kids, remarries and begins a new teaching career. Meanwhile, the family’s fun and light-hearted father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), has moved back from Alaska to become closer with his kids.

Shot over 12 years, about a week out of each summer, Mason develops into a mature, sometimes awkward teen on-screen and off. His thoughtful qualities become apparent as the film progresses and his improved performance greatly enhances the story.

Whether it is divorce, abuse, heartbreak or bullying, Mason’s story is highly relatable to any viewer. It is a true narration of not only boyhood years, but also almost anyone’s life experience. There are no overly exaggerated and unlikely events that always seem to get into hollywood dramas for effect. Instead, Boyhood’s straightforward plotline works as its strength to tell an authentic story about life cordial for any perspective.

Linklater brilliantly captures Coltrane’s real life changes and translates them into his project to even more accurately portray his message. He also includes subtle reminders of the cultural changes from the past decade. The 2008 Obama and McCain election, George Bush and Iraq, social media, entertainment consoles and pop culture’s evolution all add to the film’s realness, almost making it seem like a documentary of one boy’s youth.

Although 166 minutes for a feature film is usually more grueling than effective, Boyhood passes the time more quickly than anything else of its length. Every second is essential and only builds to the powerful description of Mason’s experience. The dwindling 35mm film format allows for pleasant continuity in the cinematography over the extended 12-year shooting period.

Boyhood is nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, director and supporting actor and actress. The film already won best picture, director and supporting actress for Arquette’s performance at the Golden Globes Awards.