'Boyhood' review: A beautiful, audacious, epic marvel of cinema & storytelling
This sprawling coming-of-age epic -- comprised entirely of masterfully woven together slice-of-life moments -- is one of the very best films in recent years. "Boyhood" is cutting-edge, experimental film making at its finest.
In short: Twelve years in the life of young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he matures from a child into a man. (Watch the trailer)
Much has been made of the film's production: director Richard Linklater filmed this 2.5 hour drama over the span of 12 years using the same quartet of actors to play Mason, his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) and his older sister (Lorelei Linklater). This film has no firm narrative: it is simply a beautiful time capsule capturing Mason's path from curious 6-year-old boy into a 18-year-old young man.
Writer-director Linklater has crafted a dramatic work of art that occurs once a generation. "Boyhood" is an intimate coming-of-age portrait executed on a breath-taking and impressive scale. This cinematic achievement succeeds on the macro and micro scales simultaneously: "Boyhood" perfectly captures fleeting and genuine moments of childhood, adolescence and maturity, while also presenting one boy's evolution from child to teen to young man.
The execution is more than just watching Mason mature from fresh-faced kiddo into a stubbled high school grad - "Boyhood" also captures his family's evolution over a 12-year-span. Arquette and Hawke's characters have genuine character archs -- which includes new careers, new families and turmoil in their homes. Their growth/evolution as adults mirrors Mason's growth.
Patricia Arquette's performance as Mason's divorced, struggling single mother will absolutely demand attention come Award Season. She absolutely delivers a strong and dynamic performance as a single woman and mother who endures a series of ups-and-downs in her own 12-year journey. Her final scene -- which captures her thoughts on motherhood and her identity -- is absolutely breathtaking.
The fact Linklater and crew shot scenes for a few days each year didn't stop them from crafting a complete and cohesive story. "Boyhood" is not merely a sequence of nostalgia-inspired scenes where a child slowly grows up on screen -- every scene informs subsequent scenes in large and small ways. The man Mason grows up to be is very much a product of the preceding years worth of scenes shaped and formed young Mason's values and character. One particularly powerful scene connects a seemingly innocuous action of Arquette's character and its ripple effect felt years later.
"Boyhood" is an undeniably impressive work of cinema in almost every way - from the audacity of its conception to its poetic vision in embracing every small moment. Linklater masterfully executed the impossible: telling an elemental story told on a scale that spans years, yet remains attentive to the details that truly define a person.
Final verdict: "Boyhood" is a series of poetic, perfect moments that Linklater beautifully weaves together - resulting in this astounding masterpiece. This pioneering work of cinema will absolutely rank among the very best films of 2014. A case could be made this is the best film in recent years. "Boyhood" is a landmark film for the ages.
"Boyhood" expands to more theaters nationwide on July 18. For more information, check out the IFC Films website. "Boyhood" screened during the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival.