PLOT: The story of a boy's maturation, shown over the course of twelve years.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of films about life (yeah, I said it).
Filming the development of a boy's life over the course of twelve years, Boyhood uniquely captures the wonder of how a person blossoms from the origins of a simple human being. The life of young non-actor Ellar Coltrane, and the character he plays, vividly expresses the way in which we are influenced by the lives of people around us through the gradual passage of time.
Divided into year-long chapters that start its main character at the age of six and leave him when he goes to college, Boyhood follows Coltrane's character Mason as he, his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of Richard), and their mother (Patricia Arquette), grow together in Texas. With people of distinctly positive and negative influence passing in and out of their existence, they experience a more modern definition of family, and a constantly shifting sense of home. Outside of a domestic definition, they are characters embedded into the pop culture consciousness of their time, an attribute presented with tact by Linklater and a time capsule soundtrack.
The personal journey of Boyhood is bookended by its star breaking the fourth wall. In the beginning, it happens because of on-screen jitters, delivered amongst a non-acting child's clunky dialogue delivery. In the end, he is assured, and most of all, aware (his glance is equal to a wink). In between these moments through 150 minutes is the growth of both a film performer and a fictionalized human being. We see Coltrane spurt physically, and develop a personality. The growth that he does off-screen shows in his line-reading, which he delivers with completely natural joie-de-vivre, from the wide-eyed child years, to the mumbly cool of teen times. As much as the word "experiment" seems strange to use in association to a non-actor, Boyhood is honest to the evolution of a person as much as it is their line-reading.
Those who support the on-camera maturity of Coltrane are constructed with equal care, contributing their own evolving presence to this film. Patricia Arquette in particular, as Mason's intellectual mother to him and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), presents the film's most vivid example of its other favorite subject group, the post-teen - adults exhausted by the ambition of trying to find the keys to life, but still desire to influence younger humans for their chance at finding the ever elusive perfect contentment. As one of the film's only main actors who appears throughout Coltrane's twelve years, Arquette has a thoroughness with her character that sneaks up on the viewer at the very end, where her character's own journey bottles to a different peak then that of her on-screen son's. Her final words provide a great balance to the wisdom of Boyhood, which shows one teen progressively liberating himself from the constraints of the world, while his mother takes a journey that is more crushing, if not more gravitational, to the incalculable course of life.
Similar to Arquette's presence, Boyhood achieves its largest profundities when Coltrane directly interacts with adults. The trademark heart-to-heart conversation, a singular event in many coming-of-age films, is multiplied to excellent effect. In these scenes, the idealism of supporting adults (people of power attempting to discipline Mason and thus influencing him directly or indirectly) is shown vividly, along with their own influenced impressions of masculinity and maturity. It is in these scenes as well that Linklater's experiment, a film curious about influence, presents its finest fictional/non-fictional examples.
As the god of these fictional creations, Linklater, the philosopher of Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and most recently the laid-back Before Midnight, presents a direct story with interest most of all in a downbeat step-by-step perspective of life. For the climactic crises that are presented, a greater amount are alluded to through editing. In its humility that mixes fiction with non-fiction, Boyhood captures life most similarly to The Tree of Life, presenting the past as the extended scenes from our memory's montage.
"We're all just wingin' it" is one of the more profound lines from the thoroughly interesting Boyhood, especially due to its simplicity. For a film that is so intellectually realized, it remains humbled by the daunting questions, and doesn't claim to have any answers. And yet, Linklater's film is so thorough in its introspection that it just might have some.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10