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'Boyhood' review: Life doesn't give you bumpers



"Boyhood" began its theatrical run in Houston starting today.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane), age 9, in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood."
Mason (Ellar Coltrane), age 9, in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood."Photo courtesy of IFC Films, used with permission.
The official theatrical poster for "Boyhood."
The official theatrical poster for "Boyhood."Photo courtesy of IFC Films, used with permission.

"Boyhood" has been this cinematic phenomenon as far as film reputations go. Writer/director Richard Linklater spent the last 12 years filming certain sequences all while documenting the life of a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up, eventually moves out, and goes to college at the age of 18. The drama has an unprecedented near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is practically unbelievable given the amount of reviews already available for the film.

You find it very easy to put yourself in Mason's shoes throughout his childhood, especially if you're of the male gender. He moves around a lot, his single mother (played by Patricia Arquette) does the best she can to hold down a job and support her kids even though it isn't easy, and Mason soon discovers that his father (Ethan Hawke) who disappeared without a trace a year and a half prior suddenly wants to be a part of his life again.

The characters are all very human and believable. Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are always at each others throats while Mason's mother has several husbands over the years that Mason never really gets along with. Mason gets into minor mischief like shoving rocks in a pencil sharpener at school and hides the fact that he looks at more adult entertainment like pornography and even Victoria's Secret at a young age.

Richard Linklater makes a statement about starting over so many times over the length of not necessarily one's lifetime, but in someone's childhood alone. It's difficult to have close friends or lengthy relationships if you're constantly leaving everything you know behind. It's not surprising that you close yourself off from the world and don't open up very often to anyone and that's exactly what happens to Mason.

The segue that represents a passing of time in Mason's life is so smooth. The editing of "Boyhood" makes Mason's transition through life so effortless that it feels like it's making a statement about life just passing you by with you along for the ride.

"Boyhood" tells Mason's story to an eloquent extent. You feel like you know this boy extremely well by the end of its near three hour duration. However, you'll find yourself reflecting on your own childhood throughout the course of the film. While there is a ton of family drama represented in the film, it fails to really capitalize on obstacles in life other than constant relocation and drunken stepfathers. Nobody ever breaks any bones, loses a job, or has a car break down. Bullying seems like it's glazed over and briefly represented when it was very likely a bigger part of any man's childhood.

"Boyhood" is an extremely bold effort from Richard Linklater. Sticking with any idea over the course of 12 years is a triumph no matter how you look at it and you literally witness Ellar Coltrane grow up before your very eyes. The film is a near perfect portrayal of the transition from adolescence into manhood. But as genuine as "Boyhood" feels, it falls short of really flooring you with greatness. So many life lessons seem to fall on deaf ears without more conflict or bad luck being thrown in along the way.