We first encounter young Mason at the age of six. He is curious, imaginative and innocent to the ways of the world. He shows potential of real wisdom, but can not yet express it at such a young age. His world is dominated by adults, with a tug of war happening between his father and his mother for his attention and his love. Over the next 166 minutes, and 12 years, we learn to love Mason. He grows up in front of the audience, as do his family, as do his friends; we share his low points, his high points and the crucial stepping points of his life. Richard Linklater, the director, started filming in 2002 with a young group of actors, and by the end of filming in 2013 the characters had grown up with the actors themselves. It gives the illusion of watching life itself, in all its beauty and all its hardship as Mason finds his way through life. Boyhood is an extraordinary cinematic accomplishment; a work of pure genius that almost takes on a miraculous quality as it unfolds in front of you. No other film of recent memory truly understands and appreciates life as well as Boyhood. It understands the abruptness and frightening speed of life, but it also epitomises the joy of experience and discovery, the joy of growing up, in a way that takes the breath away. It truly is a film that totally transcends cinema, becoming something else entirely; something more complex, beautiful and special.
Richard Linklater understands life. Throughout Boyhood, the moments that other director’s would have singled out, such as Christmas, birthday’s etc are often cast aside for the little moments that can ultimately come to define a person. They are sometimes bigger, like a graduation or even a first kiss, but often they are simple conversations, that reveal more about the characters involved then any event could. There are not many people working in cinema right now who can beat Richard Linklater for the writing of these kinds of moments; the small, seemingly ordinary doses of conversation between people. Under his writing and under his direction however, they become something more, something revealing. Boyhood is undoubtedly Mason’s story, but his family around him are all so well developed and so well built up that each of them could all have their own movie to match Mason’s. Ethan Hawke is particularly brilliant as Mason’s father, who struggles to be there for his children as the barrier of the parent’s personal rift presents itself. He is charismatic in his younger years, and steadily moulds and rises to be the father that Mason needs; it is a progressive performance that feels as heartfelt as any in the film. Another special mention goes to the always excellent Patricia Arquette as Mason’s mother. She has terrible taste in men, picking many a drunken stepfather for Mason that only serves to break the family apart a bit more each time. She loves her children, but is almost tormented at the fact she has to leave her life behind for them. It’s a complex character, a fascinating character, in a film where each person could tell stories to fill up a thousand movies. Often, Boyhood becomes a film not only about a boy, but a family too. To follow this one set of people who evolve, experience and grow together is a cinematic experience that everyone should undertake.
Boyhood is a film that not only presents love, but also inspires it. It is a film that shows us life through twelve years of a quite ordinary boy, who before our eyes grows into a man. It is two hours and forty minutes long, and yet it almost feels like if you blink, you’ll miss it. As Mason drives down the roads of Texas, you are suddenly hit with the realisation that this man in front of you is the simple, mischievous little six year old who you met at the very beginning. The true wonder of Boyhood is that it will connect with everyone, without exception. There is a part of us all in Mason’s twelve years, a nostalgic core that reminds us just how quickly time flies by, and how important it is to savour every second.
The experience of seeing a young boy grow up in front of your very eyes has no cinematic equivalent. It is a unique journey, as you get a small taste of life, in all its trouble and all its beauty. For its sheer ambition and accomplishment, no film over the past decade can match Boyhood.
Having to leave Mason at the end of Boyhood leaves a desperate need to know what will happen next. His life has so many chapters left, so many more moments to share, that we never will. As he packs for college, Mason’s mother cries at finally having to let her son go; the audience feels the same way by the end of the film.
Not only the best film of the year, but arguably one of the finest films of the decade, Boyhood is a remarkable cinematic accomplishment that takes the breath away. Richard Linklater has presented a study of life like no other, a collection of small, defining moments that all continentally shape a young man right in front of our eyes. Through the premise of filming over the span of twelve years, Boyhood creates a sense of life that may never be matched; a glorious insight into the perils and joys of growing up, of becoming who you want to be. It isn’t good, it isn’t amazing, it is absolutely perfect, and it is a film that will be continually admired and applauded for years and years to come. A true masterpiece of this generation.