SXSW 2014 Review: Boyhood
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Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater
IFC Films
Not Rated | 164 Minutes
Release Date: March 9, 2014

Directed by Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), Boyhood covers 12 years in the life of a family. The film was shot intermittently over a 12-year period, beginning in the summer of 2002 and completed in October of 2013.

We follow a young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he matures from first grade through high school graduation, along with his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and his divorced parents, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke).

As the years go by, we find them facing the realities of not only growing up, but also the ongoing challenges of parenting in an ever-changing world. Boyhood is an unprecedented achievement in long-term storytelling, a time capsule that allows audiences to relive their own adolescence through a series of memories.

In the span of time it took to finish Boyhood, Linklater and Hawke followed up their 1995 film Before Sunrise with two sequels, nine and 18 years later. For a director to complete one of these time-lapse projects would be an accomplishment, but to fully realize two makes Linklater one of the great American filmmakers, and perhaps the most attuned to the effects of time on characters.

Boyhood lacks the conventions of most screen stories: there isn’t really a plot – no conflict or melodrama. This is a film that you absorb – a film that lingers days after, sinking in after the fact. There aren’t clear-cut chapters, but instead the changes are gradual, allowing the characters to grow up before your eyes. Instead of getting a “one year later” subtitle, the audience is given time markers in the form of cultural touchstones “” from video game consoles to pop songs and the growing presence of the internet and mobile devices.

Patricia Arquette delivers a career-best performance while Hawke continues to prove that, when paired with a filmmaker like Linklater, he can be an incredible actor. The real key to making this whole thing work, however, is Ellar Coltrane. How do you know if a child actor will be able to mature and actually act? Luckily for Linklater, his main character grows up to be a talented young man capable of carrying the film on his shoulders.

Linklater’s Boyhood will get a theatrical release later this year, and I highly recommend you seek it out when it comes to an arthouse theater near you. Until then, if you haven’t seen Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, you should go ahead and get on that. Oh, and Bernie, too. And Dazed and Confused. And Slacker. You know what? Just watch Linklater’s entire filmography.

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