Boyhood: An Astonishing Journey

It’s official — I like movies with the word “boy” in the title. Some of my favorite coming-of-age stories include About a Boy from the UK, Boy from New Zealand, and now Boyhood from my home state of Texas. Austin’s own Richard Linklater made this movie, and it’s just as phenomenal as everyone’s saying it is. It’s no wonder it has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Boyhood follows the life of one Texas kiddo from age six to age 18. But unlike most movies that have one actor playing the kid at age six and a different-but-similar-looking-actor playing the kid at age 18, this movie has the same actor, Ellar Coltrane, playing the kid all along the way. Not only that, but we get to check in on Mason every year – see what friends he’s made, what kind of trouble he’s gotten into, what new styles he’s rockin’, what major life mistake his mother’s just made. If you do the math, that means the film was 12+ years in the making. In the age of 6-second Vines, Boyhood represents an astonishing commitment from everyone involved – from Linklater, from Coltrane, and from the actors who play his divorced parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.

Even if you’re not interested in getting to know Mason and his family, in watching year by year as he grows up and learns to deal with the slings and arrows life throws his way, the film is fascinating to watch just because of the novelty of it. How do you shoot 15 minutes of film every year for 12 years, then splice it together so it all makes a cohesive whole – so that it makes sense from a storyline perspective and visually looks like it came out of the same can? I haven’t the foggiest notion, but Linklater certainly does.

He’s a director known for his cinematic innovations, from compact 24-hour stories like Dazed and Confused, to the sprawling Before Sunrise trilogy, to 2011’s Bernie, for which he ingeniously hired handfuls of town locals to play the town locals. The man’s clearly not afraid to take a risk, even if it means putting your latest film project in the hands of a six-year-old boy and waiting 12 years to see if it pays off.