Filmed over a span of twelve years, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is possibly the best way to explain human adolescence to an alien species.
Boyhood follows the fictional life of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, and shows him from age six to age eighteen. Mason’s sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), mom (Patricia Arquette), and dad (Ethan Hawke) each age on screen as well. The film’s soundtrack acts as a timeline for viewers, too. Pop songs from 2002 to 2013 are cues to each new era in the characters’ lives and give almost subconscious background.
The film moves from year to year in Mason’s life, only showing big events like his reconnection with his father, their move to a new city, and of course, his first relationship. Instead of a defined plot, each character is simply trying to better themselves or in Mason’s case, grow up without a hitch. The story goes as far as Mason pursuing his passion for photography, but stays constant by an array of horrible step fathers for the antagonists. Never as outlandish as the queen of Snow White or any typical parent-villain, the film’s hardest moments are difficult to sit through because of their reality. Due to this life-like structure and Linklater’s (director of Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused and School of Rock) seamless, realistic dialogue, Boyhood is like sitting for almost three hours in someone else’s shoes, and it’s incredible.
The movie is set in suburban Texas, which is surprisingly relatable to any American town. With a voyeuristic view into the life of a middle class boy, Boyhood’s only misstep may be that it stays in that realm. It’s a coming of age film if only boys have to conquer their teenage years. The story never really touches on how Mason’s older sister, Samantha, is affected by their family’s problems and glosses over her stake in teenagedom. The closest it gets to a female perspective is Olivia, Mason’s mother, living out her dream as a professor, but always failing to keep a balance with her home life, until she is eventually crying about how fast her son has grown up. Although this one-sidedness could be considered a downfall, the film is indeed living up to its name.
Nonetheless, the movie hit the emotional points it was meant to and should be appreciated for its truth. Not many pieces of art show such an honest ensemble of characters and feel quite like Boyhood’s eerie world, too real to not exist off screen. Linklater’s latest film is an incredible look at the human experience, but it is in no way boring for earthlings who live it.
Overall rating: 5/5 stars
By: Devin Castaño