Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a miracle on screen and deserves all of its near-unanimous critical acclaim. The film follows the life and (multiple) times of Mason and his family over a period of about 12 years. The cast and crew shot the film for a few days a year over that time, and the result is a mesmerizing depiction of a struggling immediate and extended family unit through adolescence and adulthood in realtime. On the surface, the forced aging of the actors/characters can come across as a gimmick, providing style over substance. That’s not the case here. Linklater, who is well known for his subtle yet potent dialogue focusing on asking the big questions while anchoring itself in the everyday (see the Before trilogy), has crafted some incredibly powerful scenes.
I’ve read some negative fan reviews citing that nothing really happens, the scenes are boring, and the movie is too long. I had to check to make sure they were talking about the same film I watched. These scenes, the characters, and the evolving story all come together perfectly to comprise a tremendously engaging account of family dynamics. The scenes featuring the first of two alcoholic partners that Patricia Arquette’s Olivia gets involved with are worth the price of admission alone, especially that intense dinner table scene when drink glasses go flying. Kudos to Marco Perella for playing one of the most despicable assholes ever captured on screen. Of course, the ensemble cast was equally brilliant. Ellar Coltrane gives the eternally meandering and preachy Mason an understated likability. While you don’t necessarily root for Mason to succeed, you are still interested to see where he ends up. And that is something Linklater or any inoffensive filmmaker will leave up to the audience. Boyhood is the best film of 2014 (so far).