12 years in the making, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is an epic yet intimate chronicle of a boy’s life and the family that guides his journey.
If life is but a series of moments, than Boyhood is a beautifully constructed and heartfelt tribute to such a life. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, this ambitious project saw the ever adventurous and creatively bold filmmaker shoot this story over a 12 year period, casting a then 6 year old Ellar Coltrane in the lead role where he figuratively and literally grows into his role.
Coltrane stars as Mason, the youngest child of divorced parents Olivia (Partricia Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). Under the custody of his mother, Mason and his long suffering sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are whisked from town to town as Olivia tries to complete her college degree, while also trying to star life anew with one new husband after another.
During all of this we see Mason grow from a cheeky six year old chasing racoons, to a college bound 18 year old soaking in a sunset while on a mushroom infused high.
Coming of age stories usually fall into the spectrum of nostalgia (Stand By Me, The Tree of Life), yet Boyhood is a 21st century tale, where post 9/11 politics play just as much a part as the stellar soundtrack (a speciality of Linklater’s) that mark the passing of time as much as the aging, maturing faces of the cast.
What never changes is the importance Linklater places in a strong family foundation. Although Mason’s family is splintered, a strong connection still remains between children and father, who although doesn’t have custody is the one parent who plays the role of teacher, dispensing wisdom on sex, love, politics and music all through a left of centre viewpoint, with The Beatles and Barack Obama given equal admiration.
Hawke delivers one of his best performances as the mustang driving, rock ‘n’ rolling dad, portraying a growing maturity with each passing year as a man-child whose dedication to his children stops him from continuing to be one.
Equally good is Partrici Arquette as the protective mother whose ambition to see her children have a stable, bright future often leads into dark pathways.
Of course it’s the “boy” of Boyhood who is the star here, and Ellar Coltrane makes for an alluring on screen presence, bringing the right amount of grounded personality to Linklater’s free flowing style that adds to the organic, almost documentary look at the many moments that constitute young Manson’s life.
Linklater has created something unique with Boyhood for both the audience and Linklater himself, with the man who mastered the “story set in a day” format (Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy) stretching his limits to incredibly impressive results.
In turn Boyhood is not only a masterful film but a culturally rich one as well, a cinematic equivalent to the Mark Twain coming of age classic “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” yet made for a new generation, and a film that deserves to secure Linklater’s reputation as a master of the cinematic craft thanks to the brilliance delivered here.