Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director Richard Linklater
Writer Richard Linklater
Cast Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
This film is fairly tame and I don’t think it poses too great a threat to your pre-adolescent and adolescent kids. It deals with some definite adult topics and themes but isn’t explicit in any way. It’s kinda slow and meandering though so they may get bored, and nothing blows up, so there’s that.
What a great film. Unique in many ways and beautifully ordinary in many others.
Boyhood took 12 years to film. It follows a boy as he grows up between the ages of five and 18. Uniquely Linklater chose to allow his cast to age in real time, filming each section of the film when appropriate over a twelve year period. This gives the film an amazing sense of time and growth, as we literally watch a boy become a man, adults move through significant stages of their lives, and the world slowly changes over more than a decade.
Mason is a boy. He is the son of a smart and determined single mom, a flighty but fiercely loving father and the brother of a ferocious sister. He’s a boy adrift in a life he can’t control and doesn’t understand, but Mason makes his way slowly and inexorably through the world dodging and dealing with all the curveballs and medicine balls it throws at him. From a far-too-wise five-year-old, to a gangly but determinedly independent 18 year old, we watch Mason grow up and become a young man.
I think you take a risk casting a five-year-old boy in a film you plan to make for 12 years. You kind of know what you’re getting now, as much as you do with any child performer, but who knows what he’ll turn into? With Ellar Coltrane, Linklater chose well. His performance is solid throughout, and from the beginning of the film to the end he is un-ignorable. For my own tastes his performance gets a little too languorous towards his late teenage years, but it admittedly fits his character perfectly, and I’m very interested to watch him in his next role to see how much of it is acting, and how much is him. Linklater cast his own daughter as Mason’s sister and she delivers a powerhouse performance. We watch her grow from a precocious young girl into a gorgeous, tough, and tenacious young woman. While there were moments in which I didn’t like her character, I always loved her performance.
The adults in the film are great. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s parents. Hawke is as he always is, frenetic and solid at the same time, slightly overacted, but in a believable way that we somehow find easy to relate to and associate with. Arquette is sublime. Like Hawke, she too has a slightly hammy, slightly larger than life feel to many of her performances. From True Romance through to Boardwalk Empire I’ve watched her deliver some breathtaking performances and some very ordinary ones, but in Boyhood she shines.
Richard Linklater has directed some of my, and the world’s favourite films. The Before Sunset series is a personal film milestone for me. I made the mistake of seeing it while travelling the world alone, and spent the rest of my journeys searching every bus, train, plane and coffee-shop for my own Celine. Unfortunately, and predictably, to no avail.
In Boyhood we find another stunning example of his slow and meandering style of storytelling. His narratives feel like icebreakers ships, slowly and inexorably ploughing their way through pack ice and gently curving around icebergs, as they navigate their way around life and through the world. Boyhood is exquisitely helmed and gently maneuvered.
It’s great. Definitely see it. But don’t expect anything epic or grand, apart from the scope of the concept and the project, because the film itself is soft and gentle.