Boyhood’s biggest victory lies in the fact that by the end of the movie, you’ve focussed entirely on Mason Jr.’s coming-of-age, while the fact that this is the most uniquely made film in the history of cinema has probably slipped your mind.
Don’t get me wrong – no one’s ever going to forget that this film was shot over a period of 12 years, which is why the working title for this film was The Twelve-Year Project.
No one’s going to forget that the cast could not sign contracts for the film due to the De Havilland Law, which makes it illegal to contract someone for more than seven years of work.
No one’s going to forget that Linklater actually requested Ethan Hawke to complete the film if he died during filming.
However, that’s no reason for watching or liking the film, right? Just because it was MADE uniquely doesn’t mean it has to be unique, or good.
But that is exactly where Linklater scores – Boyhood works wonderfully as a coming-of-age film, arguably the best in the history of films.
Boyhood follows the life of Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) from childhood (age: 6 years old), all the way through adolescence till he’s 18. His stirring performance is ably supported by his pragmatic, no-nonsense mother Olivia Evans (Patricia Arquette), his happy-go-lucky and loving father Mason Evans Sr. (Ethan Hawke) and his annoying, claim-to-know-it-all sister Samantha Evans (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of Richard Linklater).
As we follow the Evans’ life through the Bush administration and into the Obama era, Mason Jr. encounters every possible situation that boys of his age in the Americas would have. And it’s not even a uniquely American experience – I bet if we put up a mirror to our lives, what would reflect back is the story of Boyhood. Reading naughty magazines, first encounter with a girl, bullying at school et al. Not only that, he and his sister have to cope with a couple of their mother’s failed attempts at finding a stable relationship.
Eventually though, the boy finds his niche in the world as you would expect. And at the end of the film, you feel a sense of satisfaction.
The Rabbit from the Hat
Until it hits you – it’s all the same actors! No CGI, no make-up – just good, old-fashioned ageing.
In a world where every other film ‘tricks’ you into believing stuff through deftly placed CGI, Linklater relies on the best CGI trick of all-time – time itself. That’s what makes Boyhood so credible, so believable and so relatable. Ellar Coltrane doesn’t grow up to be Chris Pine or some Hollywood young hunk – he grows up as Ellar Coltrane and that, in today’s day and age, is damn nigh unbelievable, until you see it for yourself. None of the acting or emotion is forced – it’s all just a natural process enabled by time.
It’s Richard Linklater’s ‘Prestige’.
You already know the verdict. Boyhood is an experience you cannot miss on the big screen. It deserves to be seen in all its 70 MM glory. It is the best movie of the year (pushing Interstellar to No. 2), and the best coming-of-age Hollywood film of all time.