I've long been a fan of Richard Linklater's films ever since I first saw Dazed and Confused way back when. It grew even more when I saw Before Sunrise and that film's two subsequent follow-ups (which I blogged about earlier this year). However, I think Boyhood may be his crowning achievement. The film was shot over the course of 12 years with the same principal actors throughout. It was a gamble that paid off magnificently, resulting in a very special film that traces one boy's life from age 6 to age eighteen.
The film traces a young boy named Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane) who lives with his sister Samantha (played by Lorelai Linklater) and his mother (played wonderfully by Patricia Arquette.) His parents are divorced and his father (played by Ethan Hawke) is an infrequent fixture in his life as the film begins, although he is around more as the film goes on. The film moves from one major life event to another. His mom moves him and his sister to Houston so she can go back to school. She winds up marrying one of her professors (played by Marco Perella) and they move again. The professor descends into alcoholism and becomes abusive so they move yet again. The film goes on like this as we trace the adolescence of Mason as he grows up right before our eyes.
The performances in the film are impeccable, especially by the four leads. Patricia Arquette is amazing as the mother, turning in her best performance. Her character has to be a rock for her kids through all the dysfunctional ups and downs of their life and perfectly portrays someone trying to be an adult, but is just as confused and lost as everyone else. The real stand-out though is Ellar Coltrane, who is fantastic from the first scene as Mason at the tender age of seven when he started shooting the film. There isn't a single false note in his performance and it's incredible for someone so young.
The film itself is very honest about life and contains a great deal of wisdom. There were countless moment in the film that I recognized, that were accurately captured. The struggles in school, your first party, your first break-up, your parents getting remarried. It never shies away from the difficulties in life and I love that. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of funny scenes to balance it out as well. There were also the cultural touchstones that I remembered, playing Oregon Trail at school (although they were playing a newer version than I ever did), the Harry Potter books midnight release parties. You can even trace the years through the changing technology, from the Technicolor iMac computers to the various types of cellphones and iPods that the characters have at different times.
Richard Linklater, who both wrote and directed the film, has created a film that I think will stand the test of time. Yes, some of the surrounding aspects will age over time as happens with all films but I feel it will stand with other films that strive to capture a sort of spiritual truth. My one little criticism is not even directed towards the film but towards the MPAA, revisiting my argument at the end of my Stand by Me post. The film is rated R, mainly for language because of their ridiculous, arbitrary rules. Like I mentioned with Stand by Me, this is a fantastic film that should be seen by teenagers. I think they would relate to a lot of the things portrayed in this film and it would be one they would relate to. I know a lot of the theaters showing the film are not enforcing the R rating and I applaud that. Boyhood is a fantastic film that is likely to be the best film I see in 2014. I said it, I'm calling it now. Best film of 2014.