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article imageReview: ‘Boyhood’ is an honest portrait of growing up Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 19, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Boyhood’ is writer/director Richard Linklater’s masterpiece presenting the life of a boy from ages six to 18 using the same actor over 12 years.
Watching children grow and mature into young adults is one of the privileges of parenthood. Due to the constraints of filmmaking, most attempts to capture this experience involve expert make-up effects, CGI or entirely different actors. The exceptions to this rule are TV shows or franchises that are produced over several years. But in the well of his creative genius, director Richard Linklater has found the solution. Boyhood chronicles 12 years in a boy's life and was shot intermittently over 12 years using the same actors.
The story begins in first grade. Mason, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) is six years old, which means he rarely gets along with his sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), who's a year older. Their parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) are divorced. Over the years, mom takes steps to improve her standing and remarries a couple of times. Dad has trouble settling in one place, but strives to keep the music dream alive. Sam never outgrows her smart mouth, though it also gives her confidence as she grows into a competent young woman. Mason is more sensitive than many other boys his age and eventually becomes a very talented, artistic teenager.
Linklater began with the concept of capturing a boy's life from 1st to 12th grade, concluding as he headed off to college. He wrote the script before each shoot with the actors' input so it would reflect the changes they'd experienced and where they were in life when everyone reconvened. The final product is exceptional. Even though it was recorded as a series of short films, there is nothing episodic about the picture. The seamless editing flows one year into the next without the interruption of intertitles or any other indication the story has moved forward a year beyond recognizing the physical differences in the characters.
Even though the narrative is not entirely conventional, it is cohesive. The natural actions of the family and the genuineness of their story is a major part of the film’s appeal. The actors are not portraying themselves, but they are telling a realistic story which gives a great sense of authenticity to the project. There’s no melodrama or earth-shattering events. Viewers are simply invited to observe 12 snapshots in this “normal” family’s life. Hollywood has conditioned audiences to expect the worst in the most ordinary situations so that it’s almost a relief to see kids having fun without a life-altering incident ruining it. Mason is free to ride his bike, hang out with friends and drive his truck like any ordinary kid.
This venture required a great amount of commitment from the actors to the characters, though the appeal of such a unique film was likely enough to garner dedication to the project. Linklater was fortunate to find and cast Coltrane. It’s impossible to predict how likeable a child will be as a young man, but he only becomes more appealing as the years pass. Likewise, the director now has a wonderful visual diary of his daughter becoming woman.
Linklater is known for capturing some of the most earnest representations of life on screen, but he may have outdone himself here. The film is so entrancing, one does not even notice the near three-hour runtime. This is one of the sincerest portrayals of life that isn’t a documentary — period.
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke
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