Richard Linklater is a filmmaker with one of the most impressive and eclectic resumes of any artist working today. From Slacker to Dazed and Confused to Waking Life to Before Sunrise and its sequels, the man certainly has a gift when it comes to making quality films. His latest work Boyhood continues this trend of supplying exemplary art on the movie screen and it is without a doubt, one of the best movies of 2014 thus far.
Boyhood focuses on Mason, Jr., a young man played brilliantly by Ellar Coltrane and the film chronicles his life from age 6 up until age 18. Much more than the chronicle of a boy growing into a young adult, Boyhood is a simple story told in an extraordinary way. We see Mason. Jr. develop not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Along the way, we meet his mom, played beautifully by Patricia Arquette and his father, divorced from his mother, played delightfully cool by Ethan Hawke. Mason, Jr. also has an annoying older sister, Samantha played by the director’s real life daughter Lorelei Linklater, who is occasionally supportive of her on-screen brother.
Mason, Jr. is the main focal point of Boyhood and his maturation from the innocence of age 6 through the awkwardness of early teenhood until his eventual development into young adulthood is captured exquisitely. Linklater actually shot the film over a twelve-year period, capturing young Coltrane at various stages of his physical and mental development, a truly amazing and unique way of filmmaking. You can say Boyhood is almost shot in a real-time-esque way, adding a strong sense of realism to the film’s narrative.
Now, while Boyhood focuses heavily on Coltrane, the supporting cast deserves significant praise as well. Patricia Arquette holds her own as a mostly single but always nurturing mother. Her performance is among the strongest of her career. Much of the same can be said for Ethan Hawke who plays the aging, hip, and carefree dad. Mason, Jr. and Samantha always seem to have a ball when they’re around him and this is evidence of the fluidity and realness of the plot, not to the mention the terrific chemistry between all of the actors.
As we, the viewer, embark on the journey that is Mason, Jr.’s life, we learn a great many things about growing up and the curveballs life tends to throw at us. Mason, Jr.’s evolution into manhood is painful, tender, and downright real. Linklater has painted a vivid picture here and the audience will have a tough time taking its eyes off of it. With Linklater’s “real time” way of shooting to the genuine performances and the heartfelt script, Linklater has another winner on his hands here. Boyhood is a work of art, filled to the brim with brutal honesty, pure emotion, and a moral that may confuse but won’t annoy. Few films these days, if any, manage to capture the brilliance and complexity of life. Boyhood is more than just a good movie; it’s an experience that any curious person should enjoy and it is, without a doubt, one of the best films of the year.