It takes a great degree of commitment, dedication, love and loyalty to stay the course on a long-term project and see the fruits of labor unfold in a flowing piece of art-imitating-life. That is how to best sum up the film that took Academy Award nominee Richard Linklater (“Before Midnight”) 12 years to make.
“Boyhood” begins by following a six year old child named Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane (“Lone Star State of Mind”), as he essentially grows up by 12 years on screen. He and his sister Samantha, played by Lorelei Linklater, are raised by their mother, played by Golden Globe nominee Patricia Arquette.
Essentially, the film follows Mason’s upbringing in Texas, chronicling his experiences and relationships with the people who come in and out of his life including Mason Sr., played by Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke (“Training Day”), his stepfathers, his grandparents, and it is simply a tale about a young boy who grows up into a young man dealing with life and everything that comes with it.
The value of “Boyhood” lies simply in its purity. There are hardly any A-list actors, no million dollar effects, no Hollywood cliches, and it is a film that refreshes the palette of its spectators; it is a clean break from everything audiences are used to and to see the final product of this 12 year undertaking is remarkable.
Richard Linklater and the cast and crew of the film should be commended for capturing something so raw about what it means to grow up. Growing up is hard on both child and adult and the twists and turns of life can take anyone anywhere but in the end people are always stuck trying to find where they belong and through these characters, who experience these trials and tribulations of both life and time, the audience can make parallels between where these characters have been, where they are, where they want to go, with their own lives and there is something worthwhile in that.
Twelve years of production, seeing Coltrane, Linklater, Arquette and Hawke age gracefully as the film spans over the years under Linklater’s direction makes “Boyhood” an authentic work of cinematic art. Credit should be given towards Lee Daniel and Shane F. Kelly’s cinematography and Sandra Adair’s editing is sublime for visually this movie is quite easy on the eyes.
Linklater also wrote a screenplay that truly captures the essence of Mason’s generation and culture. The usage of music, film, television, politics, popular culture all contribute to the realness that this film is trying to emulate and the character of Mason is used as the fresh pair of eyes witnessing the world changing around him and himself while searching for his own place in the world.
The cast gives solid performances. Particularly, the principle cast whom this film centers itself around is memorable, while so many supporting characters are in and out and left behind as the narrative unfolds but that is another demonstration of art-imitating-life; people come, people go and life goes on and it is as simple as that.
Watching Ellar Coltrane in this role is incredible because he literally grows into this role as he gets older and more aware of the world and more mature. At the end of the film, audiences cannot believe that the young man Mason has become sprouted from the little boy who was lying on the ground staring at the sky and the same can be said for Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke; each of them grows into the characters they play and each of them does a wonderful job with what they were given.
“Boyhood” is a transcendent work that stands apart from any motion picture seen so far this year. Richard Linklater has accomplished a true milestone in his career with a film that he genuinely loved making for over a decade and that element of love can be felt in the acting, the cinematography, the editing and above all the storytelling that can go to dark places, light places and the gray areas in between.
Even if audiences are unfamiliar with Linklater’s work going into this film, “Boyhood” is a beautiful and flowing piece because it is about the hardships and blessings that life gives anyone and seeing this story unfold around the character of Mason is truly mesmerizing.
“Boyhood” is a film that is in a league of its own and it is a film that lingers once it is complete.