Cinema review: Boyhood

MM viewed Richard Linklater’s latest masterpiece Boyhood at Cornerhouse in Manchester.

Boyhood is an epic coming of age film unlike any other.

Filmed in 39 days over 12 years, Linklater’s latest sprawling, emotive epic follows the life of six-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he goes through life and becomes a man.

A powerful and moving concept, the idea of watching a life evolve and people ageing before our eyes is something that fascinates audiences worldwide.

Despite this, the film is much more than the long-term gimmick, and the most powerful element is without question the realism of the piece, how natural it feels, and the chemistry between the actors that allows this to be possible.

Over the space of 166 minutes, the charming and witty film covers childhood innocence, distant parents, troubled relationships and all of the growing pains experienced by a typical boy in 21st century America.

The film which was written and directed by Linklater, works its way through each year of Mason’s life in brief vignettes.

Although to some this may seem jumpy, the way in which the film moves from scene to scene is clearly reminiscent of memories, flashes of a life captured beautifully.

Throughout the film, pop culture moments of significance like the Game Boy Mason plays on, the Dragonball Z he watches to the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince release and even the Obama Vs McCain posters, all firmly grounded the story in real life and made it that much more relatable.

What the film lacks in clear narrative drive, it makes up for in honesty and thought provoking nostalgia.


One of the positives of filming a feature over such an extended period is the room in which the characters are able to breathe and develop fully.  

This is clearer than ever with the protaganist, who we meet as a young quiet but inquisitive boy, despite being the axis on which the film revolves.

Mason says relatively little in the first half, and much like many children of that age, it feels as if the world is going on around him.

It is only as he grows into a teenager that we see the man that he may potentially grow to be.

We see how his life experiences, from changes of home, to his abusive and alcoholic stepfather (Marco Perella) to first loves all make an impact on his personality.

Cast as an unknown at such a young age, Coltraine has flourished in this role and as an actor generally, taking on such a large part and delivering it in a truthful and captivating fledgling performance.

The same goes for Mason’s sister, played by the director’s daughter Lorelei Linklater.

She puts in a sterling performance as the out spoken little girl, mature beyond her years, who becomes an ambivalent teenager before evolving into a strong, funny if not slightly introverted young woman.

The children’s parents played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke also bring a completely new perspective on things, this is not just a film about childhood, it is a film about maturity, regardless of age.

Arquette plays Mason’s beautiful but fierce struggling single mother with ease, despite making reckless decisions, she is easy to emapathise with and witnessing her grow and make mistakes is powerful to watch.

A special mention must go out to Hawke for his charismatic and engaging performance.

He is funny and warm in his depiction of the father, and the bond he shared with his fellow actors was so intimate and genuine all scenes with him were a joy to watch.

All of these characters are fully developed and complex, and although this is a ‘boy meets big wide world’ tale, it treads the tightrope of avoiding clichés whilst resonating with all that watch it perfectly.

A viewer looking for immense tragedy or high drama may be disappointed, but those who appreciate the way in which Linklater captures change and life in its essence, will walk out of the cinema thoroughly content.

Boyhood is now showing at Cornerhouse in Manchester. You can book tickets here.

Image courtesy of IFC Films, via Youtube, with thanks

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