Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grows up with his mother (Patricia Arquette) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), while his dad (Ethan Hawke) is a bit of an irregular, if enthusiastic presence in his life. Mason’s mom generally isn’t very lucky with men, which means that Mason’s life isn’t the calmest either. As he grows from boy to young man, though, he has to decide what his life should be.
Boyhood has gotten a lot of buzz and a lot of people practically falling over each other to praise it. And while I think that is a very good film, I didn’t quite get as excited about the film as most other people seemed to get.
The way the movie was created plays a big part in how people talk about it and how, in the end, it can be understood, so I’ll chime in with everybody else and mention that Linklater shot the film in episodes over 12 years with a constant cast. That is, of course, a risk, as a single actor’s change-of-heart would have thrown the entire production. But it also pays off because you not only get the slices of Mason’s life, but you get a slice of the cast’s lives as well which, I think, is what helps to give the film the sense of realism and groundedness.
That general sense of slow development, even if told with big leaps between the episodes makes the movie extremely soft. Despite the fact that some very harsh topics are discussed, they always seem cushioned somehow. Wrapped in a bit of silk, so that the worst things move past you and, without making light of them, they go down more easily.
The slow movement in episodes and the disjointed storytelling structure give the film its very own rhythm, and a very magnetic rhythm at that. The cast is really good, too, and easily fall into that rhythm. I would have liked to get a little more insight into Samantha’s life, but I did like how they developped Mason’s relationship with his mother.
Despite all those good things, there were a couple of moments where I wished that the film had picked up its pace a little bit. Particularly towards the end, I had just expected the film to end a couple of times – and then there was yet another episode. But more damningly, I didn’t feel that strong connection with Mason and his childhood that most reviewers seem to feel that makes them call the story universal. I enjoyed watching it, yes. But it wasn’t quite as revolutionary for me as for others.