Boyhood is a cinematic milestone that manages to revolutionize the art of cinema while still being a great film on its own right. The film is a beautiful portrayal of the moments that make up childhood, wisely spending only a little time at each major moment in the life of the central character, Mason. Boyhood is not only an astounding cinematic achievement, but also one of the best films of the year.
Director Richard Linklater does a great job at spacing out sections of time and never becoming too involved in one subplot. It ultimately feels like a series of short films that instead of being interwoven like Pulp Fiction, are shown in consecutive order, but are still relevant and relate to an overall plot. As the film progresses and the story becomes more mature, so does the film through more complicated cinematography and color pallets, expressing the maturity of the central character. Linklater does an excellent job at showing the world through the eyes of a young boy and complicating this through Mason’s journey into manhood. While some sections are more serious and some are more humorous, the film never sways in a particular direction and does a great job at exploring a story that everybody can relate to.
At the heart of the film is an incredible performance by Ellar Coltrane. Coltrane does a great job at playing a consistent character that gets developed throughout the film. The entire concept of Boyhood wouldn’t have been successful had Coltrane’s performance not been top notch, but thankfully he shows great dedication to his character and gives the audience a flawed, yet relatable character. While it’s unlikely that the Academy Awards will recognize Coltrane’ work here, it is nonetheless a performance unlike anything else ever to hit the screen.
Luckily, Coltrane is accompanied by a brilliant supporting cast that also shows remarkable transformations over time. The most notable of these is Ethan Hawke, who should immediately be put as one of the frontrunners in the Best Supporting Actor race. Hawke’s performance could’ve easily been shelved as the generic “irresponsible dad”, but instead gives an incredibly moving and at some points hilarious performance as Mason’s father. Remarkably, Hawke’s performance here matures just as much as Coltrane’s does as his character begins to fit into the mold of a loving parent, giving some of the film’s most memorable scenes and ultimately becoming the mentor that Mason needed. Also fantastic are Patricia Arquette and Lorelei Linklater, who both are remarkable as Mason’s mother and sister, respectively. Arquette in particular is given the chance to shine and helps sell some of the film’s key emotional moments. There are an abundance of other performances that appear for only certain moments throughout the film, all of which feel very natural and real, much like the film itself.
The real power of Boyhood is in its message. The way the film was constructed suggests that life is very much based on reaching prominent milestones. This idea is explored through the dialogue, but ultimately it is expressed through showing the essential points in Mason’s life and how he has developed as a young man. Linklater’s direction and dialogue sell the film by giving realistic situations in which the characters discuss important aspects of life as well as real things that kids of that age would discuss. It’s a film that never feels like a film, but rather that these are real people going through real things.
Boyhood is one of the best films of the year and certainly one of the most creative and moving films of the decade. I will seriously doubt the wisdom of the Academy Awards if this remarkable film does not receive a nomination for Best Picture, but regardless the film is essential viewing for all appreciators of cinema. Though it might not be the most needlessly dramatic or “important” films of the year, Boyhood is an awe inspiring motion picture that deserves the highest of praise. Grade: +A