Richard Linklater has managed an incredible feat. Over 12 years he’s filmed a boy growing up (from the ages of 6 – 18) and now he’s created a film out of it. And it’s not just a cohesive mildly entertaining narrative either, it’s a beautiful and incredibly moving account of a life that’s somehow come together on film. It’s an exploration of what makes a life and what it means to be a child and a man. Boyhood should be held up and admired for everything that it is as a filmmaking achievement, but most of all it should be appreciated for the unique view it offers us into everything that makes us who we are.
We meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane) when he’s only just started school, a little boy oh so interested in the world around him. His parents (played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) have split up, so he lives with his mom and sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei). We see his mom’s boyfriends come and go, along with a couple of alcoholic husbands that Mason can’t stand. Meanwhile Ethan Hawke tries to establish a relationship with his children every other weekend and Mason begins to learn about manhood by dating girls and smoking pot.
A sweet and often funny patchwork of a life comes together, where a boy who was a bit of an outcast becomes a young man with loads of interest and intrigue in the world. Highlights include a fight between siblings that starts when his sister sings Britney Spears’s Oops I Did It Again and Mason’s 15th birthday, where he’s presented with a shooting rifle and a personalised bible.
Through all the bad haircuts and awkward teenage moments, there’s a sense that although it’s a fiction, there’s a lot of reality weaved in too that’s come naturally with the filmmaking process they undertook. The film may be 166 minutes long, but no one’s sitting counting the time, in fact, it feels like there are a lot of big jumps in the beginning that could easily have been stretched out, if someone had allowed it – a director’s cut of the film would be a treat.
Winner of the Berlin Silver Bear for Directing and the Seattle Best Director and Best Film awards, this is one film not to miss.