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Boyhood: Twelve Years a Boy

12 years in the making
Photo by Michael Loccisano



Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use

There’s not much more praise I can heap on a movie everyone and their mother has already touted as this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, so I’ll keep my review relatively short…. I mean, for a film that was nearly 3 hours.

Described on IMDb as “The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18”, the plot is simple beyond belief. But when writer/director Richard Linklater uses the same actors throughout, actually filming the main character (played by Ellar Coltrane) and his supporting cast (most notably: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Linklaters own daughter, Lorelei) at specific ages during an actual 12 year span to tell this story, his concept begins to distinguish itself from the pack. That said, great premises and concepts are a dime a dozen. Every year there are oodles of films, all with infinite potential and only after you’ve paid your $11, do you realize that the only thing “Beasts of the Southern Wild” had going for it was its premise. So, going into this screening, with the amount of critical praise “Boyhood” had been receiving, I was hoping beyond hope that it was more steak than sizzle…In short: It was.

Profoundly touching, insightful and genuine (“genuine” being the key word) “Boyhood” addresses the mountain of issues which afflict adolescent males, without (for the most part) seeming forced or contrived. In fact, I think people will be stunned at how uncontrived and unsaturated with explosive watershed moments (usually built into a film with the sole purpose of manufacturing pathos) this film has. And it’s those genuine moments and small touches of reality throughout, which allow it to connect with audiences despite the lack of cancer revelations or sudden deaths.

It’s not really a surprise Linklater would come out with a movie like this, since the structure of “Boyhood” is wildly similar to that of the “Before Sunrise” series, only condensed into one film and chronicling male adolescence. With smile inducing song selections, hair styles and obviously the inevitable aging of the actors, to show the passage of time, there are really no words to describe the technical brilliance of this film. “Boyhood” is not just an example of Linklater resting on his fantastic premise. He also displays why he’s such an acclaimed filmmaker, as he puts on a masterclass in camera technique, sequence and shot selection.

Final Thought/One Month Later: When I first saw this a month ago, I fell in love with it as a near flawless film. Now, that I write my review, and more importantly have allowed this cinematic experience to marinate, I can see that the even though Linklater has made a film which is technically innovative, with an initial two hours of emotional perfection, the flaws within the final 30 minutes of “Boyhood” are there and should be noted. The final act does display a bit too much of Linklater’s hippy sensibility, as Mason (now 18) spends nearly every second of the final 30-40 minutes (the movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes) engaged in long and distracting diatribes, pontificating on the meaning of life. Those who disagree with my lack of enjoyment with this final stage might claim that this section of the film was not a misstep, but in fact a logical progression since the latter teenage years are usually when young men begin to seek answers for life’s unknowable questions. That said, I don’t believe that I am nitpicking when I say that while it may be realistic, Linklater’s final act made for a repetitive and whiny finale to my viewing experience. On the other hand (and this may sound like an odd thing to say) in the case of “Boyhood”, the ending may not even matter, since by that point a majority of audiences would have built such a fiercely emotional connection to these wildly relatable characters, that any ending could have been tacked on and “Boyhood” would’ve still been worth the price of admission.

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus

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