Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
Running Time: 2hrs 40
Plot: Spanning twelve real-time years with the same cast, Boyhood captures the growth of a five year old boy to that of an eighteen year old high school graduate. Twelve years though, and no one even dropped out or had a horrific accident.
Growing up, educating ourselves and building a family are such naturalistic pursuits, yet in spite of the fleetingness of life as we currently recognise it to be we attach so many complications, expectations and doubts that we often lose sight of what matters. To hear Ethan Hawke (the Dad) say, ‘Nobody knows. Everybody’s just winging it!’, in response to Ellar Coltrane’s (the Boy) posing of the Big Question is both scary and an enormous relief. Just do things that make the time better, says Richard Linklater, the genius Texan writer/director behind Boyhood.
An elliptical lapse of growing, learning and hormonal imbalance, Boyhood is guaranteed to strike a chord with any person that’s ever looked about themselves and wondered what the hell they’ve done with their lives up until now. Which is everyone. Shot across twelve summers from 2002 to 2014, Boyhood is a breathing picturebook of one family growing up and, in some cases, growing old. If you were a 90s kid like your keyboard tapping friend here then Boyhood may be an extra special treat; young Ellar Coltrane and his pretend sister Lorelei Linklater speak for an entire generation. The specifics -Gameboy SPs, Halo 2 co-op, the unleashing of Soulja Boy – will amuse under 20s, even more so because Linklater has captured them in the moment, but everyone can relate to ‘chore’ schedules, bike riding, seemingly endless car journeys into the Heart of Darkness and having to remain at the dinner table when the adults order more wine after finishing their meal. Boyhood is such an easy film to place yourself into; the events of the screen are so interpolated with being alive that you won’t be able to help it.
Luckily for Linklater and the cast collective, Ellar Coltrane, who plays the ever-changing boy-man Mason, turned out to be not that bad an actor at all. He’s more than a little awkward in the early teen stage, but who knows what insecurities he was having about his committal to such a long term project. That he and everyone else kept coming back for a decade plus and investing so much of their spirit into the project points to the familial bond they built together, an element which is paramount to Boyhood’s emotional heft. Patricia Arquette as ‘Mom’ is fantastic and heart breaking, her search for acceptance and future security as potent as Ellar Coltrane’s self-discovery, while Ethan Hawke’s transformation from enthusiastic weekend dad to wizened patriarch is shocking to witness.
Richard Linklater, whose family and cast are literally one and the same, has put so much of his life force into this film. To think that the Dazed and Confused Slacker from Texas made nine films and a mini-series along the course of Boyhood’s extensive shoot boggles the mind, but instead of distracting him it seems to have heightened the care and warmth given to his passion project. Filming one boy from his first year of school to his high school graduation was a magnificent idea, and one that has never been done before now. Boyhood is sweet nostalgia; it offers you the chance to grow up all over again, or at the very least remember how it was to do so. Hold tight for the 2026 sequel, Unemploymenthood.