Boyhood (2014)

Review #1,070

Director:  Richard Linklater
Cast:  Ellar ColtranePatricia ArquetteEthan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Plot:  The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Silver Bear for Best Director (Berlin).  Won 1 Oscar - Best Supporting Actress.  Nom. for 5 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing.
Runtime:  165min
Rating:  NC16 for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.

"Why are you crying?"
"Because I don't have all the answers..."

Richard Linklater is saying that we are all dazed and confused. But we should seize the moments as they seize us.  He has been saying that for much of his film career, from The School of Rock (2003) to his 'Before' trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013).  In his most audacious work yet, Linklater pieces together fragments of life as seen through a boy's naive eyes as he matures into a thinking young adult. 

Shot over a period of twelve years with the same cast, Boyhood as it is called, re-defines filmmaking in a manner never seen before.  It is truly a groundbreaking movie, both in conception and execution, yet it is the sensitive and honest portrayal of growing up that expands the film's thematic concerns into the realm of truth rarely attained in contemporary cinema.

Starring Patricia Arquette (True Romance, 1993) as the mother, Ellar Coltrane as the young boy in question, Lorelei Linklater as his sister and Ethan Hawke as their estranged biological father, Boyhood sees characters come and go, but the above four are the mainstays, particularly Coltrane and Arquette, both giving superb performances. 

Despite the fragmented nature of the filmmaking process, Boyhood is polished and put together with the big picture in mind.  It is interested in finding that elusive meaning in life through both ambition and curiosity.  It is this lethal combination that keeps us remarkably engaged for nearly three hours.

If you think you might be bored seeing someone growing up on screen, then think again, for your own life is not any less boring, that when the complexities of existence is captured through the hands of a master filmmaker like Linklater, its essence flows right out of the screen, illuminating us for the better. 

Linklater is like the antithesis of Michelangelo Antonioni, even if many of their films share similar thematic arcs.  The late Italian master conjures up spellbinding imagery, of long takes with sparse dialogue, whereas Linklater is most preoccupied with the precision yet spontaneity of verbal interactions.  You may even describe Linklater as Woody Allen meets Antonioni, and that feels like the case in Boyhood.

Winning the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival, Linklater continues to push the boundaries of filmmaking, storytelling, narrative structure and style in a quiet, unassuming manner. 

Like Michael Apted's 'Up' documentaries, a series of works that observes the same group of subjects every seven years (it is now onto 56 Up (2012) since the first film was shot in 1964), Boyhood recalls the 'Up' series' fervour to distill into cinema the transient quality of growing up, of changing times and attitudes. 

It fossilizes the process of time and brings to light its captivity, for whenever we feel or think of the moment, it would have escaped us.  Boyhood is one of those films that lets us relive those lost moments, that allows us to see time passing by passing through time.

Verdict:  Shot over twelve years with the same cast, this stupendous work from Linklater articulates the futile search for meaning in our lives with honesty and audacity.


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