Film Review – Boyhood (2014)


It’s hard to think of a film in recent years as universally lauded as Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood (perhaps only his Before trilogy). Fortunately this epic tale of human transgression (twelve years in the making) is a film deserving of such praise.

Boyhood intricately chronicles the life of Mason Jr. following him over twelve years from his childhood with his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) and sister (Lorelei Linklater) to his teen-years venturing to young adulthood through college, work and personal relationships.

Linklater has stated in several interviews: “I’ve failed if people just see this as an experiment,” which is understandable point to make. However, it must be stated that Boyhood is a technological marvel – I cannot think of another film that captures childhood and teenage life in such an authentic and heartfelt fashion. Using the same actors over the twelve year period Linklater dips into the defining points of Mason Jr.’s life – recounting his changing dynamic with his parents, his transition from school to college, his romantic relationships and his working life all neatly packed up in a two-hour forty-six minute mini epic.

Backing this technical precision up is a narrative that is continually heartfelt and affecting. As well as exploring Mason Jr.’s thoughts on life and his experiences, Linklater shows near-equal focus to the changing paces of adult life – reflecting on how Mason Jr.’s parents Olivia and Mason Snr.’s lives and feelings change over the course of twelve years. An exceptionally intimate performance from Ellar Coltrane takes us through this snapshot of the human journey that stops of at childhood, teen-life and young-adulthood with equal delicacy and investment. Staggeringly impressive turns from Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette all complete the journey that is Boyhood.

My brief review struggles to do justice to the truly masterful work which Linklater has crafted. This looks set to be a continuously rewarding watch that will continually delight the viewer with treats on repeated viewings. Boyhood is also packed with enough popular culture references to connect with anyone who had children, was a child or knew children in the nineties and noughties – from the soundtrack of the period (From pop hits like Sherly Crow’s Soak Up the Sun and Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again to Arcade Fire and The Kings of Leon) to Gameboys, MacBooks, Star Wars conversations and countless others.

This is truly and intricate and emotionally involving look at the human condition and the complexities which make up every one of us – handled in such an authentic, low-key fashion that it makes Linklater’s undoubtedly painstaking work look truly effortless and understated.

Andrew McArthur

Universal Pictures UK
Rating: 15
Release Date:
11th July 2014 (UK)
Running Time:
166 minutes
Richard Linklater
Ellar Coltrae, Ethan Hawke, Patrica Arquette, Lorelei Linklater