Review: ‘Boyhood’ 8.16.14

A home run for Richard Linklater, and one in which feels almost like a culmination piece within his body of work. Which makes sense considering the movie was shot over the span of 12 years. So like with any artist, Linklater most likely changed a lot himself as a director over that period of that time. Adding to the authenticity of the film. This is dense and thought provoking stuff. Watching this film I felt like I was watching myself as a boy “growing up” again, much like I did with ‘The Tree of Life’, which I also found myself making a lot of comparisons to. Except, instead of Terrence Malick’s loose, stream-of-consciousness narrative, Linklater takes a much different approach and shoots it in a linear fashion like a documentary in real time. So it almost feels as if you’re right there watching this young boy’s (played remarkably by Ellar Coltrane) life unfold before your eyes. One key aspect that I really liked about the film is that even though Linklater filmed it for a few weeks every summer over the course of 12 years, while watching it, it felt very seamless in the way time passed by. Not episodic which I was thankful for because I thought had it of been edited that way it would have detracted from the film. Another aspect I liked was that within every frame, for its entire 2 hour and 45 minute run time, there was something very intentional being portrayed. So it almost demanded your attention, asking you to do interpretive work constantly throughout, as almost every shot or scene made you think (and in a lot of cases feel) deeply. Lastly, I thought it did an exceptional job in terms of depicting all of the things we go through in adolescence. How we view the world and the changes that are constantly happening all around us, as we’re being pulled this way or that by different forces and having to choose between parents and their belief and value systems (with Ethan Hawke clearly being the representative for exploring this theme), all the while trying to develop your own sense of identity and individuality.
Featuring some beautiful cinematography shot all over Texas, a solid musical soundtrack (one that Linklater uses brilliantly to tip off the viewer as to what time period they’re in), and a standout performance by Patricia Arquette, who may receive some recognition come awards season for her strong work here (as well as Coltrane). This is almost guaranteed to garner a Best Picture nomination as well as a nod in the directing category for Linklater. Already up there vying with ‘Under The Skin’ for my favorite film of 2014 as well as Linklater’s best work behind the “Before” Trilogy films. This is one that comes with my highest stamp of approval. And as an added disclaimer, I can’t emphasize enough for you to make every effort to see it while it’s in theaters, as at home (like with most films) I can only imagine it being a much different experience.

Grade: A-/A

5 thoughts on “Review: ‘Boyhood’ 8.16.14

  1. Boyhood is my favorite movie so far for 2014.. 94/A.

    Right up there with my other favorite Richard Linklater movies; in order from Favorite to Least: BeforeSunrise, Before Midnight, Boyhood, Before Sunset, Dazed&Confused

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  2. Richard Linklater is prob a top 5 all-time favorite director of mine. Last year, BeforeMidnight was my fav movie on the year &Boyhood is my top choice so far this year

    I am going to see GoneGirl Fri. night. Despite the mixed reviews for GoneGirl, David Fincher is def also on my list of top 5 all-time Directors; so I look fwd to seeing it

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    1. One thing that I think is important for me to point out – is that you are single handedly responsible for my growing a deeper appreciation for Linklater’s work. The fact that it took me until this year to see the “Before” trilogy was a major oversight on my part. I’ve been telling people since I’ve seen it that it’s maybe one of the greatest depictions of what true love is represented on film. Also, with his one, two, three punch of “Bernie”, “Before Midnight”, and “Boyhood”. I’m starting to realize that we might be experiencing Linklater in “peak form” in his career. I have such a deeper admiration for him now than I did ever before because I’m starting to realize that he’s equally as good of a writer than he is a director. Which to me is extremely impressive. He’s sort of like your version of my Soderbergh. In that in a lot of ways, I draw a lot of similarities between the 2 and how we feel about them. But I’ll save that conversation for another day.

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  3. “Boyhood” A. I was absoutely floored by this film. First off as a sheer film itself shot over the course of more than a decade its a monumental achievement in film itself, something thats never been done before with the same characters literally growing up on screen. One thing I love about Linklater is his films are just so REAL. You can feel alot of the subtle scenes in the film are very similar to how it was growing up, liking your first girl, drinking your first beer, etc. It literally touched on almost every aspect of childhood and you watched it blossom on screen. UNREAL performances from Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke amonst others. I pick up on alot of things in Linklaters films because your so drawn to the screen on every shot he has behind the lens. One in partcicular when the drunk dad has Mason and his son go cash the check at the bar, the guy behind the counter was the same guy behind the counter years ago when Wiley Wiggins was trying to buy beer in “Dazed and Confused”. As you mentioned superb soundtrack of indie bands that were popular during the time period. The film can make you laugh, cry, but more importantly appreciate life. A must see for any true fan of film and I would go as far to say it was a masterpiece and one I will recommend to anyone that is even remotely interested in it. Linklater continues to be one of the best directors in Hollywood today, the guy could make “Growns Ups 3” with Kevin James and Adam Sandler reprising their roles and I would still see it. Definitely routing for him, the cast, and film come awards season. Going to have to check out the “Before” trilogy as I’ve avoided it for some reason to this point, but I only owe it to Linklater to see them because of the impact he’s had on me as a filmmaker.

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    1. Yes the fact that the film was shot over 12 years is indeed in fact a remarkable achievement in and of itself. It. Also agreed in that it’s slightly revolutionary but note – it “has” been done before. One movie that particularly sticks out is 1994’s “Hoop Dreams” which followed two inner-city Chicago kids and their basketball careers over the span of 9 years. Or the documentary “56 Up” which took on an even greater task of following a group of Brits from the time they were born and catches up with them every 7 years in 8 year intervals now showing them at 56. So while Linklater’s film was just as ambitious in scope. I just think it’s important and should be known that it has actually been done before. Just not made for such a wide audience.

      You also bring up a lot of similarities to things that I pointed out that I liked about the film. Particularly the performances by Coltrane and especially Arquette (who I called her Best Supporting actress nomination way back in August in the review after I first saw it). Hawke to me was serviceable but nothing spectacular. Linklater does also make every shot “count”. As it seems like a lot, if not all of the frames in the film were loaded with inferences that as a viewer, made it an accessible yet challenging watch. Which only makes me give more credit to Linklater. The soundtrack was also expertly done and integrated into the film. Cuing the viewer in to what year they were trasitioning into while young Mason was growing up. As a film aficianado much like Linklater, I thought this was also well done.

      What dropped it down to a “strong B+” for me after seeing it the second time were a couple of minor criticisms about the film. First, the 2 boyfriends of Arquette’s character were very 1-dimensional and felt almost like cardboard cutouts. Especially the second/corrections officer. The first husband’s scenes of alcoholism felt a bit artificial, overstated, and overdramatic. The second corrections officer was cliche in that he was ex-military, drank too much, and tried to play the hard-ass stepdad. That scene with the 2 of them on the porch when Mason came home late and the stepdad yells at home only to throw down a beer can, then the came does an up pan of him standing up only to reveal “Corrections” on his back. I thought was a bit cliche and forced. Also when the Mexican guy approaches the Arquette character in the restaurant and tells her that her advice motivated him to change his life – “ma’m your guys’ food is on me” I also thought was contrived and felt unrealistic. The last thing being what my stepdad pointed out is that he couldn’t relate one iota to how Mason grew up, saying much of his childhood was totally and entirely different than the one featured in the movie. He also thought it was strange how “cool, calm, and collected” Mason seemed to be throughout the whole film. He looked at that as somewhat silly and a character like that would only exist inside the “hipster-like indie lens” of Richard Linklater, which is not to take away from the overall brilliance of the film. As I obviously liked it a great deal giving it an overall grade of a high B+ and listing it as #5 on my best of end of the year list.

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