Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is the sort of movie I live for. Seldom does a movie significantly change the landscape of filmmaking in a way so grand in scope, yet so simple in delivery. Boyhood is a movie that crafts the most realistic representation of life into the boundaries of a 165 minute film, and it could have focused on just one aspect of life, but instead it perfectly encapsulates the idea of what it is like to grow up; the idea that everyone is familiar with and will most certainly relate to. The movie is not just about one thing alone, but in the end it is; it is about life itself.
We follow young Mason, played extraordinarily by Ellar Coltrane, from the age of 6 to his first day of college. We do not have different actors playing the same characters, each of the actors were filmed annually for 12 years; there are no prosthetics, no extensive makeup, and no body doubles. I could try to give you a brief summary of all the major things he experiences in his life, but that would be taking away the magic of watching his life unfold before your very eyes. Almost every moment that you have experienced in life—no matter how mundane or unimportant— is up on screen for you to relive. From times when your parent told you to actually talk about your day instead of saying, “It was ok,” to “the talk,” to graduating college and leaving home, to falling in love and falling out of love, to that first day of school, to making friends and losing friends, and every moment you think you have forgotten; Boyhood has all these moments that might have seemed unimportant to us at the time, but they appear as milestones in the life of Mason.
Coltrane is fantastic; even at the age of 6 he is great. His life is utterly absorbing; we became entranced by his life. Even if nothing huge is happening, we see him grow up in front of our eyes. There really is no equal to this type of experience—except maybe if you were to marathon all of the Harry Potter films. He is continuously changing before our eyes. His hair grows and is cut off; he gets taller and gets piercings. But, although his appearance changes, he remains the same type of person.
Playing the older sister, and getting far less recognition than Coltrane, is Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei. From early childhood to her teenage years, she is the one who bugs her brother, but also accompanies him along for the ride, just like any good sibling would do.
His mother in the film, played exceptionally by Patricia Arquette, is a woman who is struggling to raise her two kids on her own. She is flawed, though; she has a hot temper and continuously picks the wrong man, but she is what a mother should be: thoughtful and caring. She cares for her children and does whatever she can do to make it by and let them live a happy life.
His dad (played by Ethan Hawke in one of his best roles) though caring as he may be, is divorced from their mother for obvious reasons. He is always fun, spontaneous, and wants nothing but to be a family again. He is always there for his weekends, and always tries to show his kids the best time possible.
Though we are focused on the changes of Mason, everyone in the film changes and grows. Even if it is more magical to see Mason grow, the other characters’ changes are important and noticeable.
The film is set to what is essentially a “greatest hits” of the 2000s. Linklater, who is famous for his soundtracks (see Dazed and Confused), uses music in this movie as an indicator of the time. From early scenes featuring Brittney Spears and Coldplay, to final moments with Foster the People and Arcade Fire, the movie contains an amazing soundtrack that will surely induce nostalgia.
As someone who only just recently passed the age at the end of the film, there are so many references to my childhood that makes this film hit even harder than it does for those older. It is imbued with memories of watching Dragonball Z after school while laying on the floor, playing Halo with friends, anxiously anticipating the next Harry Potter book, talking about the possibilities of another Star Wars, and many more. Anybody who has just started college should see this movie to see their childhoods flash before their eyes.
Boyhood is basically shot in a series of episodes, with each year or so being a new chapter in the story. But there are no dramatic cuts to future scenes, there are no subtitles that explain what year it is; the years bleed together like they do for anyone. We do not live life as a series of chapters, we live at it as one long story, not quite knowing where one chapter begins and the other ends, and we are only given a brief glimpse in the life of a boy growing up. By the end of the film I wanted to see more. I wanted to see what he would do in his life, who he would marry, what his kids would be like. I wanted to watch all the way up until his final moments. But sadly that is an impossibility, and we are left to wonder where life takes him.
Twelve years ago, making this movie must have seemed like a huge gamble. There were so many things that could go wrong in 12 years. Someone could have died or quit, funding could have fallen through, or Linklater could have realized what he was making was complete garbage. There are a million reasons why this movie could not have worked out, it somehow worked out perfectly, and we are left with a truly cinematic masterpiece, a movie that will go down as one of the best of the year, maybe even of our generation. Boyhood has taken the title of best movie of the summer, it may possibly be one of the greatest summer movies ever made. So, go see this movie. It is a truly and wholly unique and magical experience. It is a perfect movie.