Rental Review - Boyhood

Boyhood (2014), R, 165 minutes - The poster for Boyhood states that it is 'A Moving 12 Year Epic'.* I'm not sure I've ever seen a more succinct or more truthful pull quote/tag line for a film.

Boyhood is a visionary work from the mind of writer/director Richard Linklater, who gathered his cast together for a short time once a year for twelve years in order to film this story of a young boy's journey into adulthood (from age 5 to 18). Think about that for a minute. This film wasn't made over the course of one summer, substituting actors and actresses in and out to show the characters at different ages. It was made bit by bit, piece by piece over those actor's and actress's actual lives, providing this film with a level of continuity never before seen in film.

The film focuses on Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his immediate family: his divorced parents - mom (Patricia Arquette) and dad (Ethan Hawke) - and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Other friends, family and step-parents come and go depending on where they are living at different stages of Mason's life. We see not only Mason's evolution into a young man but also that of those closest to him as they are the only constants in a childhood full of continual moves and adjustments to situations he has no power to control.

Ellar Coltrane really is amazing as Mason. The fact that he signed onto this project at such a young age and continued on with it over two thirds of his life is pretty impressive. It is clear that he was 'all in' on this entire project. At no point did he mail it in because he decided he wanted to do something different. How many of us can say we would have done the same? He has grown into a fine young actor and I'm curious to see what he does in the future. Both Arquette and Hawke were nominated for Oscars in the supporting categories for their roles, which were well deserved. I feel that Arquette's performance was more integral to the film though. As the single mother who had primary custody of the children, her character's life choices had a greater impact on which direction the film went. As a result, she finds herself in the most complicated and emotional places.

Getting such good performances out of their cast is always a sign of a great director. In this case, having his cast re-visit their characters each year for twelve years and continually mining excellent work is what makes Boyhood such an achievement for Richard Linklater. The efforts of all involved in bringing his vision to life have been rewarded by the Academy with a total of six Oscar nominations this year. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Linklater walked away with the Best Achievement in Directing statuette or even the award for Best Picture.

It took me a while to get around to watching this film despite all of the praise it has received. I won't lie, I was a little scared by the almost three hour run time and the seemingly simple premise of following a boy through his childhood. I couldn't have been more wrong. From the opening scenes that took me back to my own college years (thanks to the music), I was hooked. This film is deserving of all of the hype surrounding it and I'm not sure there is much of anything else I can say to convince you of that other than to urge you to see this film if you haven't already.


*Movie poster quote from Andrew O'Hehir of Salon


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