You’ve probably heard about Boyhood if you care about film. If you really, really care, you may have heard of it twelve years ago when it began filming. It’s essentially the story of a boy’s life, from the ages of six to eighteen. Filmed sporadically over twelve years, the film watches Ellar Coltrane, in a truly fine, naturalistic performance, grow up. His parents, played by a very good Ethan Hawke and a career best Patricia Arquette, also age in real time, of course, and, as someone both childless and well past the coming of age years, I really found watching the changes in the adults perhaps even more effecting and bittersweet than watching Coltrane grow up. Watching the brash Hawke grow from a smooth-faced youngster to a mellowed man and Arquette change from a slim, sexy young woman to a still gorgeous, but somewhat heavier and weary middle-aged woman was really very moving. The story is nothing at all groundbreaking; it’s a classic coming of age tale. But the writing and performances are excellent and the film never feels anything as cheap as clichéd; it’s just relatable and real and the nearly three hour running time absolutely flies by. And, yes, I think it did need to be that long. When I reached the last fifteen or twenty minutes, I was surprised to find a deep, deep well of emotion being opened up, of all the conflicted emotions you feel watching friends go through life changes or maybe even the ones you feel going through them yourself. It’s a film that works its way under your skin slowly but surely. It’s getting buzz as Linklater’s best film; I don’t know that I’d say that, great as this one is. It’s a cliché, but I just don’t know that Dazed & Confused will ever be displaced as his truest masterpiece and this one probably isn’t the one to do it. But I owe D&C a rewatch sometime soon, so who knows? But if the ranking of this film in Linklater’s filmography isn’t certain, what is certain is that it’s a masterpiece and an absolute must see.
Before I sign off, two notes that didn’t really fit naturally into the above paragraph, but that I simply have to mention. First, Marco Perella’s great, great supporting performance as a college professor with a drinking problem. Just wonderful. He’s probably only in about thirty minutes of the film, but he’s genuinely arresting and creates some of the most vividly memorable moments of the entire film. And secondly . . . about halfway through the film, I started to worry about the ending. How would Linklater pull off a good ending to a story like this? Well, that final shot. No spoilers, but suffice it to say that it seems something is about to happen in that final shot and I was silently praying that Linklater would understand the poetry of ending the film just before said thing happened. I never should have doubted. When the film cut to black at precisely the moment I would have cut myself, I did a literal fist-pump right there in the theater. Oh, Linklater, you’ve done it again.
Great film. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – both an exciting and successful film experiment and an effecting emotional story, Boyhood feels familiar in all the good ways and none of the bad ones. Sharply written, exquisitely acted & perfectly directed, it’s a film for all time. 4 stars.