Movie Review: Boyhood

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A boy grows up over the course of twelve years in Texas.

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Richard Linklater, 2014

This coming-of-age story follows a boy from 5 to 18 years of age. Mason (Ellar Coltrane) lives with his mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater), frequently moving around Texas as Olivia completes a degree, marries and gets divorced, and finds a dream job all while keeping her family afloat. In addition to his mother, Mason contends with his relationships with his sister and his musician father Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke), whose visits in his classic car provide the boy with some stability. An artistic child, Mason’s perspective on the world begins to come out more as he gets older.

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I’m sure this movie is some people’s absolute cup of tea. This realistic, slice-of-life style movie that documents a life rather than telling a cohesive narrative must really float some people’s boats. Those people are not me. I do wonder if this movie is getting so much praise just because of the unusual nature of how it was made. Shot over the course of twelve years with the same cast, Richard Linklater managed something that I’m sure many have been tempted to do before; we actually get to see these kids grow up before our eyes. Neither Lorelai nor Ellar had experience in acting; their performances are very naturalistic, which means that Mason is very much a realistic child-turned-teenager, down to the grunting conversations and the walk. There are some arresting scenes, and some moving ones. I’m sure most people can relate to one or more things that happen to Mason or Samantha during their lives. If you’re looking for realism, this is the movie for you; it’s lyrical, grounded, and it’s frequently beautiful.

If you’re looking for a movie where something happens, maybe this movie isn’t so much for you. Clocking in at 165 minutes (though I believe an awful lot more was shot), it’s not a movie you want to watch in an uncomfortable chair. I can’t really tell you about any plot that happens over the course of the movie, because it’s more a collection of vignettes than an actual story. While there are scenes that are highlights and the movie feels very lived-in, it also feels as long as its runtime. Some scenes run too long; we’re treated to whole songs as performed by Ethan Hawke, for instance. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke do a good job of holding the whole thing together and leading the younger actors; their performances are believable and touching, although we see less of them as Mason gets older and breaks away from his family. Teenaged Mason seems to come out of his shell more, and starts speaking up much more often rather than simply reacting to what’s happening around him, which makes up for the decrease in interesting things happening around him. I’m sure, come awards season, that this movie will get plenty of love for being the unique experience that it is; I’m just not so sure it being a unique experience necessarily means it’s a great filmgoing one.

Boyhood on IMDb

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