Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, September 21, 2018

Movie Review: Looking back at "Boyhood"

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COURTESY OF IFC FILMS

Soon after Richard Linklater’s true-to-life epic was released in indie theatres nationwide in July, the results from critics were in: “Boyhood” is a perfect movie if there ever was one. But is “Boyhood” really as infallible as critics have almost unanimously described it?

Conceptually, the movie’s story is quite simple. It follows the coming-of-age of Mason (newcomer Ellar Coltrane) from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, allowing us brief but in-depth glimpses into each stage. The innovation here is not necessarily in the story but in Linklater’s capturing of it.

“Boyhood” was shot over the course of 12 years with the same cast. We watch them age before our eyes – from one shot to another, Mason goes from a child to a preteen, a preteen to a teenager or a teenager and young adult. And he’s not the only one – we watch frown lines slowly develop on his mother’s face over the course of the years, his once-boyish father himself now finally grown. The film is by no means a quick or simple watch. By the time “Boyhood” ends, the viewer is aware of watching Mason’s life develop on screen. But every moment is as deliberate and formative for the audience as it is for Mason.

Mason is unquestionably the center of this film’s universe. However, more than Mason’s story, “Boyhood” is the story of those around him, how his growing up affects them and how even adults are still growing up themselves.

Coltrane’s Mason is a complete picture of a boy, at times saying more with silence than line delivery. His observation and adaptation to the world around him begins passively, as an unusually contemplative child, and progresses to actively participating in his own future, deciding on his own happiness and seeking it.

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COURTESY OF IFC FILMS

Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette, “Pretty Smart”) ages quietly by means of haircuts and failed relationships. Arquette starts off appearing borderline uncomfortable in a maternal role, but as the film progresses, she becomes heartbreakingly believable.

Ethan Hawke (the “Before” trilogy) gives the movie’s standout performance, never once making us question the existence of Mason’s father as a real human being outside of the context of this movie. He grows almost as much as Mason does, and by the end of the film we are genuinely proud of who he has become.

Hollywood newcomer Lorelei Linklater, like Patricia Arquette, starts the film as a less believable character, but this can be easily attributed to an inexperienced child actress receiving direction from her own father. As the film progresses, especially to her college years, her performance is impressive and much more refined.

“Boyhood” is especially poignant for those whose own lives chronologically parallel the action on the screen. For a 20-something audience, not only are we watching Mason grow up, we are watching ourselves. Linklater enhances this feeling with a time-appropriate soundtrack. Starting with Coldplay’s “Yellow,” moving on to Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” and ending with Arcade Fire’s “Deep Blue,” we can musically trace our own history.

The concept of “Boyhood” is simple— find one person’s reality and show it over time. But with exceptional performances and poignant execution, this reality is beautiful. “Boyhood” will break and mend your heart many times as you feel yourself grow up alongside Mason.

“Boyhood” (R, 165 minutes) is currently playing at Landmark E Street Cinema and AMC Loews Georgetown.


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