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USA 2014
Directed by
Richard Linklater
165 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Synopsis: The life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), year by year, from age 5 to age 18.

Boyhood comes to us with the accompaniment of much critical praise, perhaps a fraction over-rapt, but largely justified. It is not that there is anything extraordinary about the film but rather quite the reverse, it has an assuming ordinariness that feels compellingly real. Above all, it has a palpable heart, a characteristic we now know that we can expect with a Linklater film, whether it be School Of Rock or an instalment of his Before trilogy. As with the latter there is a sense of the film-maker trying to touch the quiddity of things – a task often essayed but rarely achieved in film. Linklater does so with a strikingly original concept, a fine script, formidable technical skill and excellent performances from his three leads, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke

Ratcheting up the chronological armature of the Before trilogy with its 9 year intervals in the lives of its protagonists (Hawke with Julie Delpy), Boyhood follows the life of a boy (Coltrane) as he ages in real time. It is not a documentary however but rather a finely scripted narrative in which we not only see Mason grow up but all the people in his life age with him, the entire 12 year period over which the film was made being seamlessly edited into a single whole that shifts from year to year with no more than a single cut.

To some degree Linklater was blessed with good fortune because the young Ellar Coltrane proves to be a winning screen performer growing from a good-looking kid into a coolly self-contained yet vulnerable-beneath-it-all young man with an impressive ability to articulate his place in the world. As his parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke both give typically strong performances whilst Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei, plays Mason’s sister.

Perhaps the film could have been a little shorter, particularly in the latter stages, and so good is Arquette as Mason’s mother that we want to know more of her (her final scene as she struggles to cope with Mason’s leaving the nest and all that implies to her is beautifully played) but on the other hand Linklater has managed to both use and transcend the inevitable illusions of film to mirror real life. And that is an impressive achievement.




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