A lot of people have been talking about the new movie Boyhood, which tells a simple story about a young boy growing up in a broken family. The main thing that people are talking about with this film isn’t the story itself, however, but rather the fact that it was shot over a twelve year period. The reason for this long production time was so that the main character Mason Jr., played by young actor Ellar Coltrane, could be seen growing from a very young age up through his high school graduation using the same actor. Obviously, there are huge risks involved with a process like this. What if the kid grows up to be a horrible actor? What if he dies? What if someone in the supporting cast dies? There are an innumerable amount of things that could have gone wrong during the production of this picture, making Boyhood one of the riskiest films ever made.
Boyhood tells a story that many people will be able to relate to; Mason Jr. is a young kid being raised by his mother Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette. The rest of the story simply exemplifies the different trials that many kids being raised in households like this go through, such as living with his mother’s new boyfriends or dealing with his occasionally present father, played fantastically by Ethan Hawke. Revealing more about the plot than what I already have would undo much of the film’s effect, as watching Boyhood is much different than any other cinematic experience this year.
Despite the incredibly simple premise, I was fascinated with Boyhood from start to finish. Within the first half hour of the movie, I could tell that I was already invested in the lives of the characters onscreen. Even though the premise doesn’t have much that makes it stand out from other stories, it is an incredibly relatable film, which some may consider to be an even more important feat. I’m sure that there are many people who watched Boyhood who came from a similar background as Mason Jr. and found many parallels between their own stories and his. You really care about the simple lives of these characters because you know people just like them, which makes this movie more valuable to our society than many other films released this year.
Everything about this movie seemed real. The entire film is very dependent upon the script and the acting, which both the screenwriters and cast pulled through on, delivering an end product that seems like a perfect image of twenty-first century adolescence. When the film begins, Mason Jr. and his sister Samantha, played by Lorelei Linklater, are both under the age of ten, and their dialogue is very believable for that age. It’s very rare to find good kid actors, but this pair delivers two of the greatest young performances that I’ve seen onscreen. As expected, the talent of these two actors increases with their age throughout the film, and by the end of the movie, it’s clear that they could both go on to have successful careers in the industry. The dialogue seemed very lifelike throughout the whole movie, and felt much more like real life conversations than actors reading a script. It was one of the most organic films that I’ve seen this year, which I definitely appreciated.
All of the supporting cast was great, as well. As I stated above, one of my favorite performances in the film was from Ethan Hawke, who did a great job as Mason Sr. Watching his character develop slowly alongside his son was very interesting to watch, and I found that although his character wasn’t the best father, he was still a rather likable person. Patricia Arquette’s performance showed the audience the other side of this struggle: what it’s like to be a single mom raising two kids. Her relationships with both her kids and her boyfriends throughout the movie were painful to watch at times, but completely necessary for the purposes of the story.
There were a lot of pop culture references throughout the film from the various years in which the movie was shot. I have to admit that I liked this simply because it was great to see Dragonball Z and Halo 2 in a movie, but I also think that this was effective because we could tell what year it was from the songs, books, and movies that the characters were immersing themselves in. I liked this much more than the filmmakers putting the year at the bottom of the screen each time that there’s a shift in the story because this method let us know the date while also giving us a healthy dose of nostalgia. Also, for people from the same generation as Mason Jr., like myself, these onscreen references remind us of our own childhood, which allows the film’s emotional hooks to dig a bit deeper into us.
Some of the references, however, seemed to just be there for the sake of nostalgia. There were a few scenes in which I at first felt glad to see some of my childhood memories onscreen, but then a few minutes later realized that the reference served no purpose to the plot. This wouldn’t be such a big problem if the movie wasn’t almost three hours long. With a running time like that, any wasted time is sure to leave some unhappy customers.
Don’t let those small criticisms distract you. I loved Boyhood, and despite the long running time, I was drawn in for every second of the film. This is one of the best films this year, and one of the most unique dramas I’ve ever seen. Twelve years was well worth the wait.