Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, “Boyhood” is like no other movie made in Hollywood. This groundbreaking story feels like a documentary, not a scripted narrative written and directed by Richard Linklater (of “Slacker” fame), who films intermittently for five days each year over an eleven-year period (from 2002 to 2013). The decade-long time-span for shooting the story is in itself pioneering, but “Boyhood” is so much more. This coming-of-age story is about all families, families we know and families we grew up in. It is not exclusively about boys, although there are scenes encapsulating maleness. “Boyhood” is more about all of us: growing up and growing old.
The viewer is pulled into the film, almost as a voyeur. We see the beautiful six-year old boy, Mason (the phenomenal newcomer Ellar Coltrane), grow to eighteen years old, encompassing the baby-faced charm, but also the pain, of early childhood through the indecisiveness of adolescence with a single mom and a well-meaning father ill-equipped for either parenting or marriage. “Boyhood” opens with a sudden decision by Olivia (Patricia Arquette), the lovely but exhausted single mother, to move to Texas in order to start a new life with her two children, Mason and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). The drifter dad Mason Senior (Ethan Hawke) insinuates himself into their lives. There is no place any of them can call home.
Everyone in the family makes very poor choices. As the story unfolds, there are other possible outcomes , different from what actually happens, but equally viable. When Mason, now eighteen years old, is asked: “Do people seize moments or do moments seize them?” Mason replies: “We are always in the moment.” And “Boyhood” reveals the ever-constant present that replays our past. That is part of the genius of “Boyhood”, although the pacing is at times uncomfortably slow.
Ultimately, “Boyhood” belongs to the young actor Ellar Coltrane who plays the boy Mason. Lorelei Linklater, as his sister, Samantha, also shares center stage for underscoring the tensions of everyday family life. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie becomes a film classic!