Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Elijah Smith, Steven Chester Prince, Bonnie Cross, Libby Villari, Marco Perella.
THE PLOT: Charting 12 years in the life of Mason Evans Jr. (Coltrane), from the age of 6 to 18, we meet our daydreaming protagonist staring up at the blue sky, Coldplay's 'Yellow' blasting on the soundtrack. Mason lives with his single mum (a powerful Arquette) and his smartass little sister, Samantha (a sparkling Linklater), whilst dad (Hawke) hasn't been around for a year and a half. When Mason Evans Sr finally arrives on their doorstep, mum isn't all that impressed. A move to Houston sparks a whole new chapter in the kids' lives, especially when mum marries her fun-but-strict professor (Perella). The initial security, and joy of having a new brother and sister, turns sour for Mason and Samantha though when proceedings turn into This Boy's Life. And that's when those difficult teen years kick in...
THE VERDICT: It must have been hard not to lean towards the epic here, given the 12-year shoot and the task of charting a real coming-of-age, but Linklater knows that it's the small details and apparently incidental moments that really tell a story. As with life itself, BOYHOOD feels endless and yet, there's a sense that it could also end at any given moment. The boy doesn't have to get the girl here. The separated parents don't have to kiss and play happy families before the closing credits. Everything here isn't leading up to the group hug.
There's joy and there's pain, there are little victories and embarrassing defeats, there's the magic and the mundane, the indifference and the ecstasy - all the yin and yangs that make up this glorious, bastard life. And BOYHOOD is not just all about this boy's life either - each of the four members of this broken family has a story to tell. Sister Samantha (Linklater's own daughter, Lorelei) goes from cheeky, pint-sized, Gertie-esque comic relief to self-conscious, awkward, sarcastic teen; dad goes from James Dean to Ned Flanders, from his slick, sick GTO to a grey, spayed minivan; mum survives a poisoned relationship or two, unwittingly putting her kids in the line of fire along the way as she progresses from dazed and confused single mum to, as all good mums do, something approaching mother earth.
There's truth, both painful and uplifting, running all the way through BOYHOOD, the early novelty of the Michael Apted ...Up approach giving way to something far closer to the fine American film tradition of capturing everyday modern families, a la Noah Baumbach's THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. With 12 years of material, perhaps it's understandable that the film edges towards the three-hour mark, but, for once, the buttock-numbing is worth it.
Review by Paul Byrne