Richard Linklater’s movie Boyhood is an incredibly moving portrait of childhood and adolescence.
Linklater had the brilliant idea to take the same actors along for 12 years of filming so that we see them growing before our eyes. In particular, we see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) growing from five-years-old until the moment he leaves home to go to university and becomes an adult.
Boyhood is above all a coming-of-age story. The viewer watches Mason experience the common steps of life: elementary school, sibling problems, familial fragmentation, travel, first love, sexual education and high school graduation. These stages of childhood mirror our own generation.
At the same time, the audience sees the influence of Mason and Samantha’s (Lorelei Linklater) parents, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawk).
This is the generation who grew up reading Harry Potter before bedtime and listening to Blink-182 and Britney Spears — and the same kids who listened to their parents debating about the attacks on 9/11 and the implication of the United States in Iraq.
This movie is not solely focused on the children, however. It also deals with parenthood in all its joys and pains. Being able to watch the evolution of Mason’s relationship with his parents throughout the movie is really moving and simply another aspect that the viewer can identify with him.
Mason Sr. is very well aware of the problems that a family can experience from divorce to domestic violence, drinking problems and separation from one’s children. But despite his shortcomings, he also depicts good moments that can be shared with family such as reading to his children, camping and celebrating birthdays.
Most of all, Olivia and Mason Sr. show that parents can grow as much as their children, as both have obstacles to overcome, tough life choices to make and ultimately a role to fill within a family.
In terms of humour, the director plays with the most wide-spread clichés about Texas — like when Mason receives his step-grandparents’ presents for his 16th birthday which include a Bible (with his name engraved on it in gold letters) and a shotgun. This setting is very important as Boyhood is not only the story of a boy growing up — it’s the story of a boy growing up in Austin, Tx. and all its traditions that add a special touch to the entire film.
From honouring the Texan flag as a boy when class begins to enjoying a midnight queso with his girlfriend as an adolescent, Mason’s identity and experiences rely heavily on his Texan roots.
The soundtrack is another important quality of the movie. From the Beatles to Lady Gaga, Linklater found songs that really fit into the time and generation he focuses on. Other artists featured in the film include Arcade Fire, the Foo Fighters, Family of the Year and Gotye. These songs also contribute to bringing the spectator back to the years that they see on the screen. The audience’s own memories resurface and they find themselves connecting to Mason on a deeper level — especially if they grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Boyhood is without a doubt an excellent movie and it is especially easy for viewers to identify with Mason’s history. It’s a film you certainly won’t want to miss.
Photo: Flickr/ Red shoes by the drugstore