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Boyhood - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published August 11th 2014
12 years in the making
Director: Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Waking Life, Dazed and Confused)
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

It's such a strange feeling to come out of Boyhood and see the poster of the 6-year old boy you've just seen grow into an 18-year old guy right in front of you. But then again, Boyhood isn't like any film you've ever seen before. Shot over a few days each year for 12 years, this is a landmark in the history of fiction filmmaking.

boyhood richard linklater
The many ages of Mason (Ellar Coltrane)

When we first meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his life is like that of any other 6-year old. He squabbles with his older sister (played by the director's daughter Lorelei Linklater) while his parents (played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) have their own disagreements. Nothing extraordinary happens to Mason over the next 12 years, but the culmination of sharing so many experiences with him and his family as the years go by make the big moments, when they come, feel bigger.

There's something very relatable about Mason's life. Anyone who's had an older sibling will recognise the feelings of being viewed as the irresponsible, immature one in the family at an early age. In later years it's just as easy to recognise the aimlessness of his adolescence and the struggles to find his own niche and identity.

The title shouldn't deter those that might think this is just a story about a boy. In the earlier scenes Mason's sister gets a fair slice of the action and throughout the film his mother is very much a point of focus. She is forced to deal with various forms of domestic upheaval and forges her own path to self-discovery, to the point where her big scene is actually the emotional highpoint of the film.

boyhood ethan hawke
Masons Junior and Senior (Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke)

With its natural performances and dialogue and unobtrusive camerawork, you really do feel like a fly on the wall in a real family's home. In some ways it helps that Ellar Coltrane hasn't forged much of a film career over the past 12 years. Despite a handful of minor roles, he has remained on the whole a non-pro throughout this film's production, and this lends a sense of verite.

I can't imagine what it must be like for actors like Arquette and Hawke to dip into their roles for just a week or two every year for 12 years, but they leave an indelible impression as, respectively, a woman balancing a daunting number of responsibilities and a man who seems to shirk most of his.

boyhood richard linklater

At almost 3 hours, the film does tend to have a slight lull about the midway point of the second half before culminating into a profound and satisfying final scene.

Although the film's concept is its main talking point, Boyhood lives up to the hype because there is great substance and humanity within the concept.

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Why? A landmark in fiction filmmaking
Where: At selected cinemas
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