In a daring film experiment, Director Richard Linklater filmed his troupe of actors every year for 12 years to tell the coming of age story of young Mason. Those yearly pieces come together beautifully into the quiet little masterpiece that is BOYHOOD.
Mason is portrayed by Ellar Coltrane and in this case, casting truly is everything. Coltrane's acting grows more confident with age, but he starts off just fine. As you watch Mason grow up, you experience the events and other people that come in and out of his life alongside him.
The constants through the film are Mason's Mom and Dad, perfectly played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Arquette is a driven academic, making better choices in her career path than her romantic partners. She is terrific throughout the movie, displaying no vanity in showing the tough parts of single parenting from every angle.
Hawke is terrific as the Dad, who first impresses you as the weekend Father that shows up bearing gifts and having fun but bearing no true responsibility. As the film goes by and the years pass, he becomes a very different Dad that you might expect.
You also watch Mason's sister Samantha grow up as well, and the kids interaction rings true at all ages. It's easy to see a lot of your own moments with your siblings in Mason and Samantha. As played by the director's daughter Lorelei Linklater, Sam carries a self-centered attitude through some difficult times.
At nearly three hours, the film unspools like real life: slowly, quietly and powerfully. It's never boring. Like real life, there are no car chases, no shoot outs and all the explosions are emotional.
It's a powerful experience and you have to sit back in wonder at the audacity of Linklater 12 years ago to gather his actors and production team and tell them that they would all be committing to getting together once a year to film the next chapter in the family's life.
I kept wondering throughout the film how much the script was written in advance or if Linklater let time and growth drive the storyline and its details. Either way, its brilliant. The moments between Hawke and Coltrane discussing "Star Wars" or the Beatles songs before and after their breakup are so well written they feel organic.
Without bowing to more conventional things such as titles to tell us that another year has passed, Linklater rolls directly from one scene to the next, letting the characters surprise us with their physical or emotional growth to mark time.
You will grow to really care about these people, their lives and their future.
It's funny, I watched another three hour film this week, the horrible "Transformers: Age of Extinction". That mess was wall-to-wall action and explosions and after twenty minutes I didn't give a damn about anyone or anything in it.
Richard Linklater is no Michael Bay, and that's a compliment of the highest order.
Boyhood is a quiet, beautiful, heartfelt masterpiece and gets an A.