Movie review: 'Boyhood' explores growing up, a year at a time

Published August 1, 2014 8:49 am
Review • Director, young actor capture the delicate art of growing up.
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Richard Linklater's new film "Boyhood" is a moving drama based on a daring yet shockingly simple premise: What would happen if a movie followed a family over a decade, watching the parents age and the children grow into adults?

Linklater experimented with this sort of time-capsule filmmaking with his "Before Sunrise" trilogy, three movies that captured a romance between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) in their 20s, then in their 30s (in "Before Sunset") and finally in their 40s (in "Before Midnight"). But that was three movies, shot over a span of 18 years.

In "Boyhood," Linklater shot a single movie over 12 years, three or four days every year. The movie starts in 2001 with the story of a single mom, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), raising two kids — 5-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter). The children's father (played by Hawke) is absent at the start, but makes sporadic and sometimes awkward appearances in his kids' lives.

As Olivia tries to start over with her life, Mason deals with regular upheavals — moving into new houses, attending new schools and making new friends. Olivia, in the early years shown here, lacks self-confidence and seeks approval through a man, leading to Mason and Samantha learning to live with stepdads: an alcoholic professor (Marco Perella) and a tough-talking ex-Marine (Brad Hawkins).

Linklater doesn't overplay the passage of time in his narrative. There are no title cards marking the years, though he plants cultural hints — the Iraq War, the release of a new "Harry Potter" book, Barack Obama's election and so on — that match the characters' interests.

The most reliable measures of time are Linklater's stars, Arquette and Hawke, whose faces age and attitudes soften as the years tick by. Arquette is the standout here, giving a perfectly modulated performance as a mom who deals with setbacks and self-doubt as she gradually comes into her own.

What makes "Boyhood" amazing, though, is how Linklater and Coltrane, an actor whose talent literally matures in front of you, catch Mason in the delicate art of growing up. Mason grows taller, his voice deepens and his interests evolve from curiosity over a dead bird in the backyard to tasting his first beer, from scoping out colleges to kissing his first serious girlfriend (Zoe Graham).

Bit by bit, over the course of nearly three hours, "Boyhood" shows the many small moments that reveal Mason becoming his own man, a full-blooded person who's more than a reflection of his parents and surroundings. It's a journey, seldom seen on film, that will fascinate and move you with every step.




Shot over 12 years, director Richard Linklater's touching drama captures the little moments of growing up.

Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas; Century 16 (South Salt Lake)

When • Opens Friday, Aug. 1.

Rating • R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.

Running time • 165 minutes.



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