Linklater’s Boyhood portrays adolescence in real-time

Boyhood, a documentary-styled film directed by Richard Linklater, follows the life of Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) from the age of six to his freshman year of college. What sets Boyhood apart from the numerous and often mundane coming of age films is that it was shot using the same actors over the course of twelve years, allowing the actors to age alongside their characters.

Boyhood has a simple premise: Mason grows up moving from city to city within the state of Texas, accompanied by his divorced mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and sister Sam (Lorelei Linklater) whilst keeping in touch with his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). There is nothing spectacular about the storyline. No big reveals or surprise murders. Rather, Linklater elevates Boyhood to a new level by keeping it authentic. Mason asks his father if magic and elves exist. Magic exists, his father tells him, but not like in the fairytales. As he gets older, Mason questions the need for a Facebook page and shakes his fist at the government. These simple moments find easy connections with the audience through its honest portrayal of growing up.

Yet similar to Mason’s uncomfortable encounters with puberty, the film has its awkward moments. It can get relatively uncomfortable to watch Mason and his sister Sam learn about condoms and rant about government conspiracies. Yes, teenagers are cynical, jaded, and weird but at times it felt like that message was being shoved down our throats. But Linklater deliberately opted for a more obvious delivery, and those scenes stayed in the film. The movie explores many aspects of growing up, including the ugly parts of that transformation. If we’re going to enjoy the highs, we will have to grit our teeth through the lows.

There is a scene near the end of Boyhood where the Mason and his mother say goodbye before he heads off to college. It doesn’t go as expected, as Olivia soon realizes that her life has flown by her, leaving her feeling lost and alone. With this, she becomes emotional and sadly expresses to Mason, “I just thought there would be more,” questioning her own purpose, her relationship with her son, and time itself. That’s Boyhood in a line. Twelve years of human life passing in 165 minutes. There are arguments, graduation parties, divorces, and lost loves. And still, it’s strange to think a whole childhood can be summed up in less than three hours. Olivia is right, there’s never enough time. What is the meaning of it all? Boyhood doesn’t give an answer. It poses the question.

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