Boyhood is the breathtaking culmination of the most remarkable project from writer/director Richard Linklater.
The film tells the story of a divorced couple, Mason (Hawke) and Olivia (Arquette), as they try to raise their young children, Mason Jr. (Coltrane) and Samantha (Linklater). Focusing on Mason Jr., the film follows his life from grade 1 at age 6 until he graduates at 18 and goes off to college.
Shot a few weeks at a time over a period of 12 years, the actors reprise their roles as Mason Jr. (and actor Ellar Coltrane) literally grows up on screen. Boyhood examines the relationships between the family members, with father Mason Sr. coming and going and mother Olivia finding herself repeatedly unlucky in marriage, the film snapshots adolescence before Mason Jr. ventures out of the family home as an adult.
Such a complex and mesmerising concept was always going to be difficult to pull off, but Boyhood is a total and complete success. Venturing into the unknown, writer/director Richard Linklater deserves unreserved acclaim. The ambition shown in the project is remarkable, but Linklater’s attention to detail and care and attention brought to making sure the film feels continuous is hugely impressive. Despite the breaks in time, Boyhood isn’t jarring and from one year to the next, letting the film flow organically and showing that time has passed through subtle changes like hair styles and clothes.
Written and adapted over the full 12 years, Linklater developed the idea and rough plot as they went along, with all four of the major actors playing a part in the writing process.
The project required total commitment from the actors too, and Linklater got it for every second. The four leads are mesmerising and the film will likely be a career-defining moment for them too. When young, Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater hold their own against their older and far more experienced peers.
Boyhood makes you feel like you’ve brought Mason up, you feel proud of him when he graduates and goes off into the world. It’s a magical journey with a wonderfully rewarding payoff; a one-off masterpiece, the likes of which has never been done before, and will never be done again.
Boyhood is totally unique, powerful, absorbing, life-affirming, a tear-jerker, and it’ ll stay with you for weeks after you see it. The second the credits roll you’ll want to queue up to see it again, and that’s the highest praise you can ever give a movie.