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Growing Pains: “Boyhood” review

ellar coltrane boyhoodThere are movies you like and movies you don’t like, movies you Love and movies you Loathe. Then there are movies you don’t not like, and you’re glad you saw, but don’t necessarily ever have to see again.

Boyhood” falls into that category for me.

The story of Richard Linklater’s latest film isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It’s a coming-of-age drama about Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his rocky childhood and adolescence.

What’s most interesting about this film is the way the story is told. It was filmed in about 40 days over 12 years. We get to watch Mason, and the rest of the cast including Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei, literally grow up before our eyes.

You don’t feel like you’re watching a movie, so much as really well-produced home videos. It’s a documentary feel almost. The scenes feel like living snapshots of Mason’s life. It’s a story about growing up and all the ups and downs that come with that.

Mason is a shy, artistic kid trying to make sense of his life. His parents (Arquette and Hawke) are divorced. His dad goes from absentee parent, to every other weekend hang-out buddy, to a pretty stable and responsible father over the decade. His mom does the best that she can to do right by her children. She goes back to school and completes a masters and becomes a professor herself. She also marries a couple of not so great abusive alcoholic assholes along the way. His older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) is a whiny brat for 99% of the movie.

Irresponsible dad, mom with poor choice in men, self-absorbed tween, sensitive boy, these are all archetypes we’ve seen before. But, because we’re watching them mature over real time in a way their character growths seem more natural, more authentic. It’s not a contrived two and half hour story arc.

Ellar Coltrane through the years. (Click to enlarge)

Ellar Coltrane through the years. (Click to enlarge)

These characters feel like real people. They had lives before the movie started and they’ll continue to have lives after it ended. We’re just witnessing this small chunk of time in their lives.

We see time subtly pass year to year as haircuts change, technology advances, pop culture and fashion trends shift, and the soundtrack goes from Britney Spears and Coldplay to Arcade Fire and Daft Punk. It’s like a cinematic time capsule.

When you think about it, a lot could have gone wrong with the making of this movie. Actors could have quit or been in an accident. Cute kid actors could have grown into terrible teen/adult ones. According to IMDb trivia, at one point Lorelei Linklater got bored with the project and asked her dad to kill off her character. It’s a testament to cast and crew that they were willing to come back year after year. They were committed to seeing the project to the end.

“Boyhood” is a incredibly well-made, heartfelt movie. It’s interesting, relatable, and engages the audience. It’s a dense film, that covers a lot of ground and definitely makes you think and feel. If you enjoy cinema and the art of movie-making “Boyhood” is a must-see.

 

 

For all you Potterheads out there, click here to see the brilliant Harry Potter/ Boyhood trailer mash-up, “Potterhood.”

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