Boyhood is absolutely remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The film follows a boy named Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane. We meet him at Age 6, the younger of two children in a working-class household headed by single mom Patricia Arquette. His father (Ethan Hawke) is a dreamer and a flake, but not a bad guy. And, over the next 12 years, Mason grows up.
That’s it. He doesn’t solve crimes, or save the planet, or anything like that. He just … grows up. This film’s magic lies in its close, sympathetic observance of that process. He and his older sister deal with their parents’ loves, with moves and schools and teachers and other kids, with sibling rivalry and love and puberty and bullies and beer and joy and all the rest. There’s beauty in this kind of close observation, in watching Mason and his family navigate the river of life. It evokes such tenderness, both for our own children and the children we used to be.
While much has been made of the fact that Boyhood took 12 years to film, giving us the real-time maturation of its actors, this film is much more than a “gimmick movie.” Writer/Director Richard Linklater created a story for those actors into which they could grow, and he gave them to us in a way that makes us feel that they’re a part of our family. So in watching Boyhood, I felt that I was watching my own sons, that I was watching my own, younger self. I felt that I was watching a testimony of the human (or, at least, the young American male) experience.
It was unique, and fascinating, and touching. It’s the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.