Boyhood is a fantastic and creative film. Director Richard Linklater had a vision and it worked – took twelve years, was quite a gamble, but it worked. When he cast six year old Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Linklater had no idea he cast movie magic. He also cast his own daughter Lorelei as the older sister, Samantha. Patricia Arquette plays the mother, and Ethan Hawke is the ex, was absent dad, now trying to make up for lost time dad. They filmed life vignettes over twelve years.
This is a real movie with dialogue and no doubt some improvisation, but it mirrors true life. Lots of moving, plenty of bad choices, throw in alcoholic stepfathers, and we watch Mason try to blend into the world, quietly establish his persona, puzzle over what people say and do, and unite with his sister as they cope with life. The film is seamless as it moves from year to year. Haircuts change, voice change, attitude, clothing styles, music, and facial hair – we watch the film eager to see Ellar/Mason’s growth spurt, eager to root for him, and hope that he makes friends, has a girlfriend, rebounds from stepfather stress and abuse.
Often he’s the quiet one with huge watchful eyes. Samantha grows into a lovely young lady. The mother goes to school, gets her degrees, teaches at the university, and struggles to do her best for herself and the kids. Ethan Hawke’s dad is the motor mouth – exudes cool, wants his kids to love him, and seeks their reassurance. He, too, ultimately grows up, remarries and has a baby boy, and has had a positive influence on Mason.
Boyhood is superb. We laugh and worry for Mason. We attend his high school graduation party and want to give him a big hug as we send him out into the “real” world. After watching him grow from six to eighteen we have a vested interest. There’s a great line near the end of the film as he explores Big Bend Park with new college friends. “I don’t think it’s always seize the moment. I think the moments seize us.” That sums up Boyhood – life moments.