Boyhood

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Director: Richard Linklater.
Screenplay: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Libby Villari, Marco Perella, Steven Chester Prince, Charlie Sexton, Jamie Howard, Andrew Villarreal, Tom McTigue, Richard Robichaux.

“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us”

For me, an overriding question often hangs over the work of Richard Linklater which is; how long will this fantastic director go on without awards recognition? He’s, quite simply, one of the truly great American filmmakers. His ideas are always highly original and the execution of them nothing short of pure brilliance. From his debut Slacker to the recent completion of his Before trilogy, Linklater has always shown the skill to match his hugely ambitious projects and after filming over a 12 year period, Boyhood may just be the most impressive feat he has ever undertaken. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least a nomination comes his way now.

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Beginning in 2002, we follow the lives of a Texan family: Single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) has been left with her two children, 6-year-old son Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) while their estranged father Mason Sr, (Ethan Hawke) is somewhere in Alaska “finding” himself. Over 12 years, we witness how their relationship grows with one another as Mason reaches 18-years and eventually leaves for college where he embarks on his own adult journey.

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So as not to be confused with the recent release of 12 Years a Slave, Linklater changed his original title 12 Years to Boyhood. However, there is so much scope here that it isn’t always just about the boy. It’s about his immediate family as well. Sure Mason Jr is primarily the focus but his sister, mother and estranged father get as much development and attention as he does, leaving 12 Years a more apt title as the focus on all these people and their relationships bring a real depth and expanse to the story. It’s a marvellous achievement from Linklater and one that takes constant reminders from yourself to appreciate that what you’re witnessing is, in fact, unlike anything you might have seen before. It isn’t just this lengthy endeavour that impresses, though. Thankfully, Linklater’s script is very sharp in shaping this family. He brings each of the four characters to life and, more importantly, believability. There’s a chance that it could have came across as pretentious or simply that Linkater couldn’t manage to realise his ambitions due to the very high commitment required. To film the same actors over a 12 year period couldn’t have been easy but Linklater makes it look so and he’s served wonderfully by a first rate cast. Taking a gamble on young Ellar Contrane really pays off as this young man maintains his acting chops throughout the duration and matures into an excellent performer (as well as uncannily resembling his onscreen father). Linklater’s daughter Lorelei also delivers some fine work and both Arquette and, especially, Hawke are outstanding as the flawed but loving parents.

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What’s unmistakable is that there’s no doubt that it’s a Richard Linklater film. It channels the same themes that have been recurrent throughout his career: As a coming-of-age drama it’s reminiscent of Dazed and Confused; With the progression into adulthood it resembles SubUrbia or Tape; From the adults perspective and their relationship issues it’s on the same path as the Before trilogy and all the while it questions life itself leading it philosophically into Waking Life territory. The film is dense with characterisation and reflects accurately what we have all faced at one point or other in our own journey’s and that’s where Linkater deserves the most praise. The passage of time and perspective is consummated through laughter, tears, changing fashions and an excellent use of music but it’s Linkater’s insight into human relations and our different stages of development that impresses most as he fully manages to capture that the only constant thing in life is… change.

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Simply put, this is a highly observant near masterpiece. To achieve such a accomplishment without the use of prosthetics requires the utmost commitment and that’s exactly what we get from the entire cast and crew. It’s a tour-de-force that achieves such a sense of realism and reflection that’s it hard not to compare your own experiences to it. Sometimes a film can be described as a “slice-of-life” but this isn’t so much a slice as a whole chunk.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: As it is illegal in the U.S. to sign contracts lasting longer than 7 years, nobody could sign a contract for their 12-year commitment and had Richard Linklater died during the 12-year shoot, Ethan Hawke would have taken over the directorial duties.

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61 Responses to “Boyhood”

  1. Fantastic shit man! Overjoyed to read the glowing review Mark, as I still think ‘Boyhood’ sits at my #1 spot of the year. The year of course isn’t over, but man. Everytime I go back and read a review of this film, it hits me again and again. How good Linklater is as a director.

    And Ellar Coltrane is pretty impressive as well.

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    • Cheers bud! I’ve always been a Linklater fan. Ever since I seen Slacker, I knew this guy had a vision and ambition that few had. However, like I mention in my review, he never really became a heavyweight force in Hollywood, I respect him even more for that. He stuck to his own personal projects and done things his way. Sure, he made some Hollywood friendly films like Bad News Bears (his worst in my opinion) but for the most part he has always delivered original material. Boyhood is only proof of his marvellous abilities. Great movie!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! The trivia is cool. I did not know the constraints of a contract. I think it’s original and Linklater deserves all the accolades he can get; his devotion to the lengthy project is admirable. Great review, Mark.

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    • Thanks Cindy! I had no idea about the contractual arrangements either. I only stumbled on that but you can understand why they’d have a contingency plan in place. Devotion is the right word to describe the project though. An admirable commitment that paid off for everyone.

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  3. Still need to see this, especially given what you’ve highlighted, Mark. Fine review.

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    • Thanks Michael! I had been looking forward to this for a while and it didn’t disappoint. I can’t get enough of Linklater though. He’s one of the most interesting of American directors for me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Picked up the New York Film Critics award just recently. Hopefully that means Oscar will take note. But, they’ve been known to forget films released outside of the end of the year awards season.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That does tend to be a problem, Michael. I’ve already seen three films this year that are worthy of top marks but I’m afraid they will be forgotten about about come Oscar season! Of the three m, though, i reckon Boyhood will be hard to forget. Especially for Linklater as Best Director.

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  4. Nice review here, Mark. Certainly an impressive film, and this time around I actually do expect it to garner some attention come awards season. 😉

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  5. Rock solid review my friend. RL is certainly a top-tier filmmaking and I would be stunned if he didn’t finally get that nomination that he has deserved several times in the past.

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  6. WHOAH! Masterpiece status here, now I’m even more curious. I admire Linklater for tackling this in terms of filmmaking process, wow that must’ve taken such dedication and sounds like he did a heck of a job!

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    • It’s a near masterpiece, Ruth. It has some minor flaws but there’s denying Linklater’s commitment and craft here. The whole cast are great too. All of them do a heck of a job! I had high hopes beforehand and I was not disappointed.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting to read how they had arranged the situation if Linklater would have died. Although I thought this movie was a unique experience I couldn’t connect with it in the same way many others can. Still a good movie though.

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    • I’ve never seen anything quite like it Nostra. I know similar projects have taken place but this is the first time I’ve witnessed such commitment. I can understand you not connecting to it. If imagine that a number of people will feel the same. I found it dragged in places but I couldn’t fault the ambition at work here.

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  8. Superb write up mate and so glad you enjoyed it. I had a couple of slight issues with it, such as I found Mason to become really annoying towards the end of the film, but it’s such a fantastic achievement by Linklater and the cast to pull this off so effectively.

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    • Cheers my man! I actually thought Mason matured into a fine young fellow. The only issue I had was that it lost its momentum a little. It dragged a bit in the final third but it was late when I seen it. Tiredness was kicking in. I did ponder on whether it was a 5star or 4 1/2star and couldn’t give it any less than top marks for its sheer scope. I was thoroughly impressed.

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      • He did indeed turn into a fine young guy but it turned a little pretentious for me, particularly with his dialogue. I do find Linklater can sometimes drift that way though at times.

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      • Yeah, I can see where you’re going. Linklater has a tendency to ponder life’s questions. I loved “Waking Life” for that but from the eyes of a teenager it can sometimes comes across as unconvincing. That being said, I still thought Coltrane handled it well and throughout Mason’s young life and interaction with his dad, it convinced me that he was brought up to question things! It worked for me, man, but I do understand where you’re coming from.

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  9. I didn’t know about that Ethan Hawke trivia! Wow! Glad you like this one!
    As for me, Ethan Hawke is a star!

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  10. daveackackattack Says:

    What sounds like a gimmick didn’t feel gimmicky to me at all. Had I not known the way it was shot I wouldn’t have noticed right away. The film just felt so natural. Mainly I noticed how the lovely Patricia Arquette gained weight throughout the production. Lol. But that’ll happen when you have kids.

    Richard has a side of him that’s more of a European style director.
    (Slacker, Waking Life, Tape, The ‘Before’ trilogy). Philosophical and talky. Not exactly European like Jim Jarmusch but maybe closer to Gus Van Sant. Both having growing up in ‘hipster’ towns like Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon (also Europe) may have something to do with influencing their indie styles. Other than Richard’s huge misstep with the awful, politically correct Bad News Bears remake he’s really been doing some really interesting stuff. Frankly he should get an award for nailing the ‘Before’ trilogy. Something so few directors often do.

    This film reminded me that sadly I’ve yet to see any of Michael Apted’s 7 Up documentary series. I mean jeez they’re up to 56 Up now. A pretty daunting task to get through them to say the least but I made it through Shoah, a 9 hour documentary about the Holocaust so there is hope. While Linklater’s 12 year feat was impressive… try 50 years of filmmaking. Now that my friend… is patience.

    Nice trivia at the end there Mark. Is it Tuesday already?

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    • Natural is the word, Dave! I had to remind myself that time had passed too. The depiction of time passing was almost seamless. Linklater done a marvellous job here. Totally agree on his European style and I can see where you’re going in the comparison to Van Sant.

      Again, I agree on Bad News Bears. That just didn’t fell like a Linklater film to me. It was too studio friendly and a certain misstep. I’d also have to revisit The Newton Boys as well. I wasn’t to enamoured with that the first time. I’d like to see it again, though.

      I’ve heard of Michael Apted’s documentary series but not even had the time to peek at that. I’d love to though, and I remember you mentioning Shoah before. I like the sound of it but doubt I’ll ever really get around to that…. Maybe when my kids are older and have left home 😉

      Yeah, man! It’s Tues… Is this a week day? What day is it? 😉

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Today is Tuesday but it came on a Monday. So you see… have another boat drink Mark.

        Yeah the aging was pretty seamless, wasn’t it? It never took me out of the film like some films when they do the old age make up thing. Amazingly the kid grew up to have a dodgy goatee just like Ethan’s. LOL.

        I don’t think I’ll ever seen the Newton Boys. I’ll probably pass.

        Well I will say this, Shoah is a tough watch. Alain Resnais Night and Fog is like only 30 minutes and was released only 10 years after WWII in ’55 so it really has a somewhat recent perspective on the Holocaust. I’d highly recommend that. Criterion has a really nice version of that on DVD. As far as the 7 UP series goes I have about 4-5 more years until the next one comes out.

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      • Haha! I knew you’d get my Dude reference! Your knowledge of films never ceases to impress me sir! 🙂

        Yeah, young Coltrane did eventually resemble a young Ethan Hawke. Accidental or not, it was entirely fitting and I certain Linklater is very proud of how things worked out overall.

        As for Shoah, as great as it sounds, I’m simply not going to have the time for that. I had to really squeeze in Boyhood at under 3 hours. That being said, I could probably watch 9 hours of a TV series without a problem. Why is that a common problem for people? There no way we’d commit to a film the way many of us do with television episodes.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Oh yeah by the way Mark, see What We Do in The Shadows by the guys who did ‘Flight of the Conchords’. I laughed so hard at this one. One of my favorite films of the year.

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      • I’ve heard of it, man! And heard great things. It’s definitely on my watch list. To be honest, though, I’ve never seen Flight of the Conchords! I’m assuming I should??

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Yeah it was an HBO show. Check it out if you can find it. You’ll either love it or hate it.

        I can binge watch with the best of ’em. The thing is with really good TV, especially serialized TV, is that it pulls you into the next hour with little cliffhangers with shows like Lost and 24 were two shows that did this in spectacular fashion. They upped the ante and made cliffhangers at the end of every hour of television. Not only did you just have to see what was going to happen next but you couldn’t even afford to miss an episode or see it out of order. Whereas movies generally have 3 acts and boom… it’s over with a pretty bow on it.

        Have you noticed lately all the movies being split into 2 or 3 parts? (Kill Bill, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) or they’ll split last films of the series (Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games). Wow! Hollywood figured out how to sell you one story for the price of two or three. Genius.

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      • I reckon I’ll love Flight of the Conchords, I’ve just never got around to it.

        Agreed on the cliffhanger endings, though. Me and my good lady were discussing this very thing recently and how TV has dramatically changed over the years. My first experience was probably Oz before becoming hooked on The Sopranos. It’s manipulative but so good, I’m not going to complain. So good that it can now command “big name” Hollywood actors to frontline them. Even movie stars now see the benefit of storytelling in this fashion. It’s the way forward!

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      • Can’t say I’m too happy about film franchises bleeding the arse out of stories, though! Sometimes it works (like Kill Bill) but often it’s a cash cow!

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  11. I’m glad you liked this one so much, but I couldn’t connect to this as much as to Before movies. Nothing really moved me or felt familiar here. But I think this may actually win Best Picture.

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    • I loved the Before movies as well, Sati. Again, it’s an impressive feat from Linklater. He’s no stranger to exploring and digging deeper into characters and life stories. What other mainstream American director is doing that at present? He’s the best around just now! It’s not my favourite film of the year but I couldn’t argue with it winning Best Picture.

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  12. I sense an end of year coming up! Glad you got to this though mate; film of the year for me. This is pure cinema, in many ways what the art form was invented to exhibit. A masterpiece pure and simple. Sublime work Mark.

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    • Glad to hear you’re on the same page sir! I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite of the year, but it’s in my top three as it stands now! However, even though I’ve enjoyed a couple of films more (Nymphomaniac and Calvary), I’d still say that this is the most impressive in terms of the filmmaking process. A sublime piece of work indeed! 🙂

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  13. Nice write-up Mark, I enjoyed reading it. It’s good to see you give this one top marks – it’s still my film of the year from the ones I’ve seen … I rarely go and see stuff twice at the cinema but I made sure I did for this one. There was a really good interview with Ethan Hawke in the paper this weekend – did you see it? It’ll be on the Guardian website – he was supposed to be promoting something else but was still raving about Boyhood, which says it all really.

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    • Cheers Stu. Great movie! There’s no mistake about that. As you know, I was debating my rating and thought about 4 1/2 stars as I found the pace to slacken off in the final third. However, I couldn’t bring myself to give it any less than too marks for its sheer scope and ambition. It’s a beautifully nuanced piece of work and it’s difficult not to be in awe of what Linklater has achieved here.

      I haven’t seen Hawke’s interview but I’ll drop the Guardian and see what the score is. I’m very interested in that! Cheers for the heads-up! 🙂

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  14. I’ve got to hurry up and catch up with this. Everyone says how good it is but I still haven’t seen it.

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    • It’s a good one, Dan! Despite my top rating, I wouldn’t say it perfect but it’s hard to criticise when you realise just what has been achieved. I really, really respect it!

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  15. Nice review. Thought this was amazing as well. I’m sure just about everyone could relate to some of the experiences Mason had on screen.

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    • Cheers buddy! Yeah, I found myself relating to Mason quite regularly. It was a very astute portrayal of life in general. A marvellous achievement from Linklater (yet again).

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  16. I agree 100% with the opening paragraph of your well written post. The film was certainly an ambitious undertaking on the part of the director, and deserves any and all accolades it has received.

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    • Much obliged! Its definitely hard to argue that this isn’t deserving of plenty plaudits and awards. Linklater has achieved something quite special here and if he walks away with an Oscar, I certaintly wont be complaining. It’s an exemplary piece of commitment that’s full of heart and soul. I tip my hat to the man!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This film didn’t resonate with me as much as it did others, but I have to give credit where credit is deserved. And I forgot about this quote…so tremendous!! –> “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us”

    Great review here!!

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    • Cheers Courtney! I had some issues with pace here and there but I put that down to tiredness on my part. Otherwise, I was in awe of what Linklater achieved here. I can totally understand the film not quite working out for some people as it did others but I firmly believe that this is a film that will last and resonate for quite some time. I’m looking forward to another viewing as I think I’ll probably enjoy it even more.
      Great quote that isn’t it? It’s one that struck me straight away.

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  18. I loved this film. One of the few that earned a perfect 5 stars from me in 2014. We’re in complete agreement.

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  19. I loved this film. One of my absolute favourites of 2014.

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  20. I keep reading such great reviews for it, I really just need to get to it. It looks fascinating, and I am so interested in seeing a film span twelve years!

    Great work, as always!

    Like

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