Boyhood review: Growing up in real time never looked better

  • Soumya Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 14, 2014 19:36 IST

Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater
Rating: 4/5

Directing a film, conventional wisdom suggests, could be a thankless task at times. As if keeping a tab on the ticket windows was no mean task in itself, you also run the risk of being overshadowed by a talented actor, who walks away with all the laurels.

Richard Linklater, however, makes sure this never happens to him or his movies. The director of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight is back with yet another piece of ‘art’, and in all fairness, Boyhood could well be his magnum opus for decades to come.

First up, the film was made over a span of 12 years with the same cast, and that in itself is a feat not many can execute successfully. And to ensure that there are no rough edges in the final product is another big achievement. With Boyhood, Linklater has managed all this and even stayed true to all the nuances of relationships. He's skidded through this herculean task with such ease and dexterity that will leave you in awe of the man and his art.

Boyhood review: Growing up showcased beautifully in this piece of art

Linklater cast a five-year-old boy, Ellar Coltrane, in 2002 for this project. They shot the movie through the years until the summer of 2013, telling the story of a boy (Mason), his sister (Samantha, played by Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei) and their mother (Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette) as they move from one town to another. The kids’ parents (Richard’s favourite actor Ethan Hawke plays the father) divorced when they were toddlers. Olivia moves towns to get away from one failed relationship after another and the kids are dragged with her. In their nomadic life, their biological father also makes regular appearances.

Boyhood is about everything a boy goes through in life from a five-year-old to a 17-year-old teenager: From his daddies with issues (the abandoner, the drunkard, the angry man), the time he skimmed through dirty magazines with his friend, when his friends laughed at him for his horrible haircut, his first drink, the first time he took weed, fell in love, when she cheated on him, when he didn't know what he wanted to do with life, to the time he moved to college...

I am sure you would have heard it before from other critics. Still, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we have this to say about this story: Boyhood is indeed the best movie you would see this year! In just about three hours (Ok, the movie is a bit too long), you see a person grow in front of your eyes. You see him grow facial hair, you hear his squeaky voice switch to a baritone, you see him get taller... and you see him face the same struggles and decisions all of us probably faced at some point in our lives. Watching Boyhood is so overwhelming and yet not overwhelming enough for you to not be able to feel the intimacy of the characters.

Ellar Coltrane does a good job at being a confused and angry boy struggling with his abusive relationships with his stepfather in the beginning. He grows aloof and distant as he grows older (classic American teenager behaviour). Ethan Hawke fits perfectly in his role as a cool dad, always playing a reference point for us to compare the other dads with. But the real star of the film is Patricia Arquette. You may not remember her from any of her earlier projects, but with Boyhood, she will definitely leave a mark. You see her get angry at her kids, break down in front of them and also get scared about her life ending soon. Like with Coltrane, you also watch her gain weight, lose weight, dress raggedy, dress like a southern suburban mom, love her kids, love her husband, shout at her kids and leave her husband.

In Before Sunrise or any of the installments from the series, we saw the protagonists for less than nine hours after nine years each and here, with Boyhood, you see 13 years in the life of this boy, it is truly ‘a historical moment in cinema’ and not just because of Linklater’s courage to even take up a behemoth like this but also for the masterful execution of the same.

So let the ‘moment seize you’ and make sure you don’t miss out on being a part of the history.


Boyhood showcases growing up in a beautiful manner

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