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Review: “Boyhood” captures audience and time

boyhood image
Ellar Coltrane portrays the protagonist, Mason, in “Boyhood.” Coltrane started shooting for the film at age 7 and finished acting in the final scene 12 years later. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is the coming of age story of a young man named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from ages 5 to 18. The film was shot over 12 years of filming beginning in 2002. It is through this groundbreaking technique we experience Mason’s transcendence into adulthood, as he matures and leaves for college, and simultaneously experience the cast and actor Coltrane maturing and growing with him.

The feat this film has accomplished is extraordinary and its message universal. It’s extraordinary in the sense that the plot is very limited and consists of a series of snapshots of a life, a life that could be anyone’s, and yet it is for this reason of simplicity that the audience is drawn in. We empathize with Mason and we see his life reflected in our own. The film’s focus is on the passing of time, and as the story progresses we come to see how each character is affected by time, and how they overcome, or fail to overcome its unstoppable progression. Time has been spotlighted in other Richard Linklater’s films, such as “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”. The three films follow a couple as they meet throughout the years and then are forced in each film to say goodbye, time never seeming to stand still for either of them.

Boyhood does this on a larger scale. The film centers around Mason’s family, mainly his father (Ethan Hawke) who left the family when Mason was young, his mother (Patricia Arquette) who left school to support her kids, his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater-the directors daughter) a bratty hyperactive elementary schooler and finally Mason, a thoughtful young boy who quietly observes the world around him. The film takes you through Mason’s childhood, his parents divorce and then through his mother’s failing relationships which force the family to start anew time and time again. From one home to the next, we watch how each new experience affects and changes the family members, and how time helps them recover and grow. Both Hawke and Arquette are remarkable in this film; their performance is raw and truthful. Likewise, Coltrane is able portray Mason with such dreamlike and wistful vulnerability that at the end of the film we are left praying and aching for Mason, hoping that everything will turn out okay for him. You grow to understand and love the characters wholly, and you leave the movie a little different than when you came in, with maybe a slight hint at an understanding of this unstoppable whirlwind called life.

“Boyhood” is nominated for the following six academy awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. I believe “Boyhood” deserves to win best Supporting Actress, Best Picture and Best Director.


2 hours, 45 minutes

Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use

Directed by Richard Linklater

Staring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater

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