It’s been in the works for twelve years, now Boyhood has finally hit our screens. Shot intermittently from 2002 to 2013, the story follows the childhood of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the age of five right up until he turns eighteen and graduates high school. In an amazing feat of cinema, director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise series) has documented various stages of Mason’s development so the audience literally gets to see him grow up before their eyes. Not only that, but all of the supporting cast, including Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette), father (Ethan Hawke) and sister, Sam (Lorelei Linklater), have also been on board for the entire duration of filming, so they too mature on-screen in a detailed look into the incredible and often melancholic brevity of life.
One of the most amazing parts of this movie, beyond the unique way in which it is filmed, is how intensely realistic it is. It isn’t a documentary – rather a realistic-fiction written by Linklater – but it is so true-to-life that it often seems like you’re just observing the ups and downs of an everyday family. No matter who you are or what your age, everyone can relate to at least one of these characters. Young people can see themselves in Mason as he attempts to make his way through adolescence, facing the things we all do in that tumultuous period of our lives. Friendships, family, drinking, drugs, love, school, jobs, all without a constant father figure in his life to guide him. Other’s can relate to Olivia, Mason’s single mother, who is struggling to raise a family amidst a slew of boyfriends, bills and university classes. She is only trying to do what’s best for her children while still finding some happiness of her own, but the two things never seem to come at the same time. Linklater involved all of the major cast members in the writing process, enabling them to adapt what was going on in their real lives into the film. The result is a raw, revealing, and at sometimes devastating insight into ordinary life.
On top of all this amazing film-making, the performances of all the cast members are divine. Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater are consistently brilliant as they move from being child actors to young adults, while Ethan Hawke brings light and warmth to the screen, proving that he can rarely make a wrong move when it comes to his acting abilities. But it is Patricia Arquette who gives the most heart-wrenching performance, as she perfectly portrays the side of parenting that is rarely explored, particularly in such a sombre light. Massive props are owed to all of the actors for staying on board for so many years, from the key players to the minor roles who too came back when they needed to make a reappearance in the character’s lives.
There isn’t a whole lot wrong with this film, although it is safe to say that with a run time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, you’re bound to get a little antsy. As engrossing as this movie is, I do feel the length did start to affect me towards the end. This wonderful film sets its own pace; I wouldn’t call it slow, but it’s definitely not fast-moving, and there are no epic climaxes for people who are that way inclined. Boyhood just unfolds before your eyes, to a poignant conclusion that will resonate long after you’ve finished this one.
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